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Selected Political Correspondence

May 2003

   Text coloring decodes as follows:
 Black:  Ken Ellis
 Blue:  Recent correspondent
 Purple:  Unreliable Info
 Green:  Press report, third party, etc.
 Red:  Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
 Brown:  True to Marxist intent

05-01-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> Ken;
>
> Thanks for the
link. I've printed it out and
> will have a boo at it tonight. From my first scan
> it looks very interesting. Are you a member there?

   I think you probably indicate: http://www.timeday.org/news

   They don't have a revolutionary philosophy, but they are right on track for abolishing surplus labor. (According to Marx, surplus labor = surplus value = surplus product, and it's all unpaid.)

> You might be interested in this article entitled
> "
Value, Markets and Socialism" at the addy of:
>
>
http://reality.gn.apc.org/econ/mfs.htm
>
> My favorite part of this article is on page 8 of 27 wherein it
> shows the
statistical data of the exploitation of productive workers
> time
... the ratio being that we, workers, get paid for only 18 out
> of every 60 minutes that we labor.
Also they gave the ratio between
> the dates from 1947 to 1987... Must be even less than 18 by now..
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   I very much enjoyed their table:

 Table 1: Exploitation of productive workers in the US, 1947-1987
 Year  Minutes per hour worked for self  Minutes per hour worked for employing class
 1947  25.0  35.0
 1952  24.9  35.1
 1957  24.0  36.0
 1962  22.1  37.9
 1967  22.1  37.9
 1972  22.5  37.5
 1977  22.8  37.2
 1982  20.8  39.2
 1987  18.2  41.8
   Data derived from Moseley: The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy, 1991, New York, Macmillan.

   Thanks for the link. The table demonstrates the growth of surplus value and capitalist power, and the diminishing proportion of influence of workers. The data are bound to trend the same way until we get on track toward abolishing surplus value.

 

05-01-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> Achieving uniformly consistent labor standards in the West
>> should be a more immediate priority.
>
> Agreed. Like I said this would take some kind'a '
consistent
> enforcement
' program. They did it in France, so why can't we
> follow their lead? What, in your formulation, would be the
> first step to achieving the desired result?

   To convince others of the merits of reducing surplus value, and to openly compare that program to less practical programs.

>> The most developed countries need to be aligned on this issue.
>> Much of Europe enjoys
fewer hours of labor than the USA or UK.
>> A
common length of the work week and work year would help, as
>> well as a
common overtime premium sufficiently high to discourage
>> overwork
. If time and a half is too weak to prevent overwork
>> beyond
40 hours now, then it's surely too weak to prevent
>> work beyond
35 hours.
>
> O.k... sounds good. Now, how do we go about
implementing these
> common standard limits to working hours
?
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   If enough people catch on to the idea, legislators would be urged to amend laws governing hours of labor, overtime premiums, length of paid vacations, etc. If legislators fail to do what a mass movement urges them to do, the legislators may not be re-elected, and more willing hands may take their places.

 

05-01-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> Realistic, yes, because all Western nations enjoy protections for
>> labor
, so legislatures need to be pressured to make the protections
>> more strict
, as well move them toward uniformity with the protective
>> laws of other countries.
>
> Specifically which
legislatures? Which Federal Agency?

   The USA has a Dept. of Labor at http://www.dol.gov/
   The operative
law is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, with many amendments over the decades by Senators and Representatives.

> Do we even have a strong and effective Labor Advocate in Lobby?

   Some big unions like the AFL-CIO maintain a list of Legislators who are 'labor-friendly'.

>> Enforcement is already a function of existing states. Once a
>>
labor law is adopted, it is enforced just like any other law. If
>> a business disobeys, the heavy hand of the
government steps in.
>
> Perhaps. But with another someone like Reagan in our corner
> who needs enemies!... Industrial Accidents and Injury claims being
> ignored, rejected and dismissed on flimsy pretenses, and with utterly
> no back up from the
heavy hand of government there, I tell'ya. And I
> might ask where were the
Unions? Un-Investigated or Non-Investigated
> claims, reports, and case files and still so back-logged that the
> corporations responsible for the damages, injuries, loss of pay,
> etc... will have had their great grandchildren taking over long
> before any settlement is reached... Is this the '
heavy hand of the
> government
' which you expect us to rely upon to step up to the plate
> and
defend our labor rights? Do you suppose that Clinton, Bush, or
> Bush hold a better record than Reagan did in respecting the
rights of
> labor
, the laws that protect labor, or any of the interests of labor?
> Is
labor's concerns even on the agenda? What have been the empirical
> results of
labor depending on the government to enforce and catch
> those who commit corporate crimes? I read an article... a while
> ago... I believe it was entitled --
CEO Serial Killer.. it told of
> examples of how crimes of CEO's, that would put any of the U.S.'s
> serial killers to shame, go unnoticed, untried, and are free to
> commit over and over and over again... even with our
regulations,
>
fair labor laws, and institutional legislative policing, etc..

   Certainly enforcement is weak, to be expected in a country without a strong labor movement, which can even be regarded as a society without sharp class divisions. Though WE see sharp divisions between poor, rich, and powerful, can Joe Six-Pac see them? He may be too busy living the American dream.

> One infamous serial killer Bundy killed a handful of people, but
> the CEO of a tire company that accepted the bottom-line
cost/benefit
> analysis
as in favor of approving the murder of over 500 people
> because it was still projected to be profitable escapes with nothing
> more than a resignation. Meanwhile politically we ignore the CEO's
> massive murdering spree in the pursuit of profits yet are completely
> appalled as a society at the actions of a Bundy... Imagine that!

   Cost/benefit analysis: Good point. But that reminds me of my old discovery that my revolutionary party of the 1970's had a program based upon quotes out of context, so it was as 'Unsafe at Any Speed' as the Corvairs that Nader critiqued so well. I thought that I did a fair job of analyzing and critiquing my party's program, but the staff thought it daft to replace a program that could still attract new members (though not many). They regarded critiquing the program as leading to financial destabilization. The old dogmatic (but supportive) party stalwarts were bound to take umbrage at a careful analysis of their revolution. So, you can see how some revolutionaries apply cost/benefit analyses to their programs. In this particular case, selling the old flawed product seemed superior to starting from scratch with a new design. You can probably see how bourgeois a party must be to be able to afford to go on rehashing the same old lies in the hopes of attracting new supportive suckers (like I was at one time). Some critics of capitalism are not as pure and innocent as they would like to make themselves out to be.

> I don't think that labor looking to and turning towards the
>
government to enforce our protective laws is realistic. It
> may be our only means of
defense, such as it is, at this
> particular time, but that would not suffice as is..

   Like you say, the gov't is "our only means of defense, such as it is". It worked well enough in my nephew's case (of unpaid overtime), but it doesn't work for everyone, such as the farm workers who don't get any justice.

> Those institutions are severely in immediate need
> to actually carry out the functions that they were
> originally established to perform in
labor's interest.
> So,
fortifying those institutions with some form of
> democratic influence and public pressure on
legislation...
> that would have to be the first step, don't you think?

   That's a good idea for a first step.

>> Trade unions already watchdog businesses. When abuses occur,
>> as is to be expected now and then,
alert unions file complaints.
>
> This is
not realistic. I mean, yes, we have Unions that do do
> that.. and some alternative
media sources available, but see my
> example above... What good are they if they can't
enforce the rules!
> Or don't
enforce the rules? I mean the UN has sanctioned and levied
> all sorts of fines on the US and look at what that has gotten us in
> acknowledging the violation of
human rights for example. We simply
> refuse the
legitimacy of their jurisdiction. Sort'a what Reagan did
> to
labor and the poor during his criminal term of presidency. Besides
>
Unions elsewhere are destroyed, leading activist members are murdered
> and tortured most times to set the example of what happens to those
> who dare to dissent and organize, I could go on.. but is there any
> need to? I think that instead of us
relying on government to support
> and back us up by
enforcing labor laws and enacting penalties that
> we should have a strong
'labor' unity consciousness and call
> to action awareness ...

   Capitalists surely get away with murder, but only because we are so weak and divided that we allow them to. Re the issue I brought up: A party selling its revolution based upon quotes from Marx, Engels and Lenin out of context: Is there any better way for capitalist evil to prevail than if we are so divided amongst ourselves that we cannot possibly support each others' revolutions? Those who aim to create a communist workers' state or a proletarian dictatorship are surely not going to help anyone to create a classless and stateless administration of things. During the Spanish Civil War, communists executed anarchists over 'ideological deviations'. Those irreconcilable divisions still exist, and yet we all claim to want to do away with capitalism and private property. But, try either to replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things, or with a workers' state, and see how far anyone gets without the other. And, while they spin their wheels trying to do the impossible, they bewail the plight of the downtrodden, which is all they can do, besides try to win a few more gullible people over to their impossible programs.

>> Progress surely takes time. If our ideas are worth anything,
>> though, the
ideas will spread.
>
> Well... good
ideas are worth spreading ... One can hope that the
> dialectical processes will endure until the synthesist resolution to
> this nightmarish life-style is possible and heuristically humans can
> get past pre-human history to making human history (Marx).

   I could never hope to say that as well as you did. :-)

>>> In here I see many problems of enforcement. Just as you mentioned
>>> the problem of '
catching' someone in the act of 'not acting'.
>>
>>
Enforcement of labor laws is not as automatic as it could be.
>
> I find it's more of a matter of nonexistent-representation, either
> with
labor or government, or inappropriate, or lacking proper,
> representation, lacking the financial means to take on capital, or
> the bosses at work, or the corporation CEO's...and one will simply
> become filtered out of the
system if one doesn't comply to the
> demands made, corrupt serial murderers and war criminals posing
> as
elected officials or politicians or lobbyists working against us, the
> red tape of bureaucracy.. what working poor stiff has the time and
> energy and money to pursue such injustices... ?? I think we'd better
> start our common cause with a means to strenghting
Labor relations
> and
worker's consciousness and depend upon ourselves to see to it
> that the
government is going to actually support us. The Spanish
> Civil War
and the Anarchist Movement would be a fine example of
> how this is possible to achieve of
Labor. Especially since it was
> a social and
not political revolution.

   In the absence of interest from those who are engrossed in trying to sell impossible revolutionary scenarios, people in general will plod along and try to accomplish whatever they can, and will continue to work within the system. After all, the system is all that seems to really exist, and, on at least some occasions, it can even deliver the goods.

> Cheers, to you Ken.... I want to go and check out that site now
> while I have some time on the computer...
>
> Rebecca

   Happy hunting!

 

05-06-03

   Jeanette W. wrote:

> Ken,
> I don't understand this
chart...can you explain it to
> me? What is "
mins per bour worked for self?, etc.
> Jeanette

 Table 1: Exploitation of productive workers in the US, 1947-1987
 Year  Minutes per hour worked for self  Minutes per hour worked for employing class
 1947  25.0  35.0
 1952  24.9  35.1
 1957  24.0  36.0
 1962  22.1  37.9
 1967  22.1  37.9
 1972  22.5  37.5
 1977  22.8  37.2
 1982  20.8  39.2
 1987  18.2  41.8
   Data derived from Moseley: The Falling Rate of Profit in the
Postwar United States Economy, 1991, New York, Macmillan.

   This table demonstrates how the product of labor is divided between labor and capital (plus withheld taxes), but, instead of expressing that division in terms of dollars, it is expressed in minutes per hour spent working for oneself (wages) vs. working for those who leech off the new values produced by labor. This way of looking at work is similar to 'tax-freedom day', in which the first few months of every year are spent working for Uncle Sam, and the rest of the year working for ourselves. As many people are aware, tax-freedom day arrives later and later with each new year that arrives, and the table expresses a similar fate for the time we spend actually working for ourselves (wages) vs. working for the bosses and the government.

   The table reveals a historical trend toward working increasing amounts of time for bosses and government vs. getting our wages. As time goes by, new innovations make labor more productive. But, instead of labor taking the benefits of increased productivity in the form of greater leisure time, labor keeps on laboring for the usual long hours, cranks out more products than ever, but needs only the same old amount of stuff to keep on living, so the excess is turned over to the bosses and the government. Bosses hope to sell the excess so as to reap increased profits. The excess gets converted into more labor-saving technologies, R+D, advertising, corporate profits, maintenance, etc.

   I hope this helped. Let me know if something still isn't clear.

 


05-06-03

   McD1st quoted me:

>> KE:This relationship was rather well represented in today's
>>
New York Times article about falling pay:
>>
>>
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/26/business/26PAY.html?th
>
> DRS: But this just relates to the short-term phenomenon of falling pay
> during the recession. Average pay has fallen, as have average returns to
> investors. This doesn't support the idea of
workers as an interest group.
> It illustrates that workers have interests in common with capitalists.

   Political interests (democracy, universal suffrage, freedoms of speech and assembly, etc.) may be the same, but economic interests are opposite. Bosses want to maximize surplus value by overworking a few, while workers benefit most when work is shared equitably.

> DRS: Yes, the class struggle is a myth.

   True enough for now, at least. A big American labor party would be a sign of class struggle, but we don't have much of either in the USA.

>>> McD: But we can freely take reduced hours if that is what we want.
>
> DRS: In the US, the majority of workers work
non-standard hours. McD
> is right that the
length of the working day is chosen by the workers.

   Long or short, making the economy more inclusive alleviates social problems.

>> KE: I don't know if you were hinting at this or not, but INDIVIDUAL
>> solutions do not suffice nowadays. Conditions cry out for truly
>> SOCIAL solutions.
>
> DRS: Many of our problems have individual solutions.

   That's certainly true, but some problems call for social solutions, such as unemployment. Unemployment is national policy, which means that some social problems have been imposed upon the population from above, by the state, acting on behalf of business.

>> KE: It depends upon how much society would be willing to cut hours. A small
>>
cut in hours - enough to put many more people to work, for instance - would
>>
raise wages considerably (by eliminating cut-throat competition for scarce
>> jobs
) while not slowing production of necessities at all.
>
> DRS:
Cutting hours would hurt the workers who would get lower wages.

   Why would workers get lower wages? Which workers? All workers?

> They have chosen a certain combination of hours and wages.
> They don't want
lower hours and lower wages. If they wanted
> that, they would have chosen it.

   This Reuters article shows that American workers are putting in fewer hours and work less overtime as a result of the current recession. Are Americans voluntarily 'choosing' this reduced work load? See:

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=LAGHXN4WG1WJWCRBAEKSFFA?type%5C=reutersEdge&storyID=2677262

>> KE: If, on the other hand, cutting hours were to become the next popular
>> fad, the
work week could be easily cut in half while still not cutting
>> into necessities, though lots of non-necessary production would certainly
>> be diminished, such as the willingness to jump into
war, advertising,
>> speculation, high-tech research, etc.
>
> DRS: Only a very small proportion of workers' wages goes on necessities.
> Workers mainly consume things over and above what they need. And they
> do this out of choice.

   I agree. It's called 'standard of living'. People living in the most developed countries are accustomed to a relatively higher standard of living compared to a lot of other countries. What often are initially defined as 'luxuries for the few' eventually become 'necessities for all' as mass production enables prices to fall.

>>> McD: Yes. But even Marx doubted whether communism could get rid of
>>> alienation.
I think philosophy can ease it.
>>
>> KE: Marx generally equated
surplus value (and surplus labor (the same
>> thing)) with all kinds of evil, such as
alienation and exploitation.
>
> DRS: Marx did
not do this. Surplus value in Marx's view is
> a matter of
unpaid labor.

   True, surplus value and surplus labor is unpaid labor, but:

me28.382 "All the moments of surplus capital are the product of alien labour - alien surplus labour converted into capital" ...

me28.397 ... "the fact that surplus labour is posited as surplus value of capital means that the worker does not appropriate the product of his own labour; that it appears to him as alien property; and, conversely, that alien labour appears as the property of capital."

me34.201 ... "the content of labour is alien to the worker himself" ...

me34.231 "The more labour objectifies itself, the greater becomes the objective world of values which confronts it as alien - as alien property."

me34.306 "For what is important for capital is the production of surplus value, the appropriation of alien surplus labour in whatever shape - the shape being of course determined by the wants of the market."

>> KE: The way to cut back on alienation is to scale back on mindless,
>> thoughtless surplus value production
, at least enough to ensure full
>> participation in the economy
.
>
> DRS: There is
no surplus value. Workers get the value of what they
> produce and capitalists
get the value of what they produce.

   Without surplus value, there can be no profit. And yet, the news is full of reports of corporate profits, and taxes on profits. More mass delusion?

>>> McD: Do you actually think all profit comes from passive labour?
>>> It
clearly comes from entrepreurship.
>>
>> KE: To the extent that an entrepreneur works hard to build
>> and maintain a business, I agree.
>
> DRS: If you save and invest your earnings, you make a contribution
> to output. Why shouldn't you be paid for that? Marx
denies that the
> capitalist makes a contribution to the value of output
, but this
> is a mistake.

   'Marx denies that capitalists contribute to the value of output'? Marx himself said that the INDUSTRIAL capitalist contributes:

me37.632 "The capitalist still performs an active function in the development of this surplus value and surplus product. But the landowner need only appropriate the growing share in the surplus product and the surplus value, without having contributed anything to this growth."

me31.539 "The capitalist is the direct exploiter of the workers, not only the direct appropriator, but the direct creator of surplus labour. But since (for the industrial capitalist) this can only take place through and in the process of production, he is himself a functionary of this production, its director. The landlord, on the other hand, has a claim - through landed property (to absolute rent) and because of the physical differences of the various types of land (differential rent) - which enables him to pocket a part of this surplus labour or surplus value, to whose direction and creation he contributes nothing."

>> KE: Marx's theory of SURPLUS value is quite different from his theory
>> of the value of a commodity, because
surplus value is all about the
>> DIVISION of the product of labor between worker and boss.
Surplus
>> value
is all about 'who gets what', and not at all about
>> 'how is commodity value determined'.
>
> DRS: No, Marx's
surplus value is part of his theory of the
> determination of the prices of commodities. It is one theory.

   If no different, then why two different names? We are given: 'Value of a commodity' vs. 'surplus value'. Would you then say that 'The sun and moon both illuminate the earth, so the sun and moon are the same thing.'(?)

   The labor theory of value is: The value of a commodity is determined by the amount of socially necessary labor time embodied therein.

   The theory of surplus value is: Workers are compensated for their labor time by means of a wage that represents only a part of the value they impart to the product.

   Those are 2 different theories, or 2 different components of one larger theory.

> DRS: No, the worker gets the whole value of his contribution.
> The capitalist
gets the whole value of her contribution.

   What about the earlier example of my own experience as an auto mechanic? The shop rate was $22.50, my wage was $7.50, and the surplus value was $15.00. If I supposedly got the whole value of my contribution, then my wage would have been the rate the boss charged the customer - $22.50. But, I never got that much. Or, did I forget, and should I go back and check my pay stubs?

>> KE: It's a perfectly legal and civil relationship, of course, but it
>> does explain a lot about society's '
race to the bottom'. People have
>> to do SOMETHING to resist the
race to the bottom, so what do they
>> do? What's YOUR solution?
>
> DRS: Given the fact that capitalism increases real incomes for
> the whole population, why is this a
race to the bottom?

   I didn't invent the 'race to the bottom' phrase. See: http://www.nlcnet.org/brochure/page1.htm

   You would have to argue with the New York Times over their claim that 'wages are going down for the whole spectrum of workers.' I didn't write the story.

 

05-08-03

   McD1st wrote:

>> KE: "Workers cannot form an interest group"? Then what precisely
>> have
trade unions been for the past 2 centuries?
>
> McD: As Robert Owen saw, they are organised against the workers as a
> whole in favour of a select group in one trade. They
pretend to be against
> the capitalists or owners but they only beat up "
blacklegs" or "scabs" whom
> they put
picket lines up against. The general idea is to limit supply in one
> trade for greater pay & to stop the usual reaction of
more workers coming
> in to share in it
. Owen saw it as anti-working class in the 1830s & he set
> up his
Grand National Consolidated Trades Union that soon got a million
> members. But lacking a comparable interest to the
Trade Unions that
> might pay off, the movement soon faded.

   In that case, then, can bosses form an interest group? How about Chambers of Commerce, or the NAM = Nat'l Ass'n of Mfg'rs? If bosses can form an interest group, then it would be classist to think that workers couldn't.

>> KE: Plus, during the American Depression of the 1930's, Labor backed the
>>
Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill, which had so much support that it even passed
>> the
Senate before being scuttled in the House on behalf of business interests.
>> So,
Labor can defend and pursue both its political and economic interests.
>
> McD: How was that in the working class interests?

   A 'working class' may not exist here, but it is in the majority interest to fit as many workers as possible into the legal economy. The AFL had workers' interests at heart when it backed the Black-Connery Bill. Its passage would have slashed the 25% unemployment rate of 1933.

>>> DRS: As McD indicates, the theory of surplus value assumes that capital
>>> makes
no contribution to the value of output, and this is clearly wrong.
>>
>> KE: The theory of
surplus value assumes no such thing. Marx CERTAINLY
>> accounted for the
contribution of capital when he defined fixed,
>> circulating, and constant capital.
Raw materials add their entire
>> value to commodities, while machinery and buildings, etc., add
>> their value in the form of depreciation.
>
> McD: Marx held that
all value came from living labour.

   Adam Smith said it first, and others agreed before Marx put in his 2 cents. Engels wrote in his Marx bio (me24.194): "Ever since political economy had put forward the proposition that labour is the source of all wealth and of all value, the question became inevitable: How is this then to be reconciled with the fact that the wage labourer does not receive the whole sum of value created by his labour but has to surrender a part of it to the capitalist?" Engels then went on to explain surplus value.

>> KE: But, as soon as ALL workers win reduced work schedules,
>> no reduction in wages results.
>
> McD: I think Ken is
not thinking economics here. How can wages
> not fall if we all do less?

   Hours should be reduced, but only enough to provide greater participation in the economy. Reductions beyond the point of providing FULL participation would reduce total output and wages, so this device would probably not be used to the detriment of production.

>> KE: Certainly today's generations have more time, as well as
>> more stuff, and life is certainly easier. But, workers also create
>> a higher proportion of
SURPLUS value, and take home a SMALLER
>> proportion of their product than ever before in history.
>
> McD: Again, Ken seems just
not to be thinking economics. Where could
> all this
surplus go to; if it existed? In the society of mass production
> it is fairly clear that
production is for the masses.

   Part of the surplus goes to civic projects like roads, bridges, dams, wind farms, as well as military adventures, expensive luxuries, advertisements, research, etc., a lot of stuff which the average worker may never directly consume.

> Surplus value had no more existence than did Marx's soul.

   Does that mean that 'Marx was the devil incarnate'?

>> KE: Tech evolution translates into increasing rates of exploitation
>> (which is the same thing as increasing rates of
surplus value).
>
> McD: Yes, both
surplus value & exploitation, in Marx's sense,
> are in the same area of the
null set.

   If so, then I don't see why so many governments representing so many billions of people would want to take his teachings to heart. Naturally, mistakes do get made, and the 'power and property' path to socialism was a mistake, but Marxism surely attracted a lot of attention at one time. It was viable in the era of smashing monarchies and replacing them with communist workers' states, but it has little to no appeal to democratic peoples.

>> KE: Capital tends to drive necessary labor down to zero (which should
>> arrive by 2029, using Kurzweil's estimation).
>
> McD: Is that why the workforce are today bigger than ever?

   Human labor predominates because machines are still not very good at thinking for themselves, but that will soon change. Then say goodbye to human labor, and goodbye to capitalism.

>> KE: Marx speculated that the abolition of necessary labor would also
>> result in the
abolition of surplus labor (and value). Speed the day
>> when the machines create all of the food, clothing, and shelter
>> anyone could ever need, and for free.
>
> McD: It will
never arrive. Progress opens up new lines of production.

   'New lines of production' is certainly true, which shows that surplus value is growing. Did you ever notice the reduction in agrilabor? In the USA 200 years ago, 80% of the population worked the land, while today it's only 2%, and that tendency continues. Clothes are produced faster and cheaper than ever. A new factory loads in cloth at one end, while finished clothes come out the other end, with only maintenance people in between. Ever notice how quickly buildings and dwellings rise? And so on.

>> KE: If the abolition of necessary labor is the task of the capitalist,
>> then the task of activists should be to
abolish surplus labor by gradually
>>
legislating the length of the work week down to zero, or at least down to
>> such a low figure that yet another
work week reduction would be regarded
>> as superfluous, and hardy volunteers step in to perform the remaining toil
>> (all of it intellectual, at that point). That is how society will
evolve out
>> of capitalism, and in NO other way. If you can think of a different
>> way in which it might
evolve, then let's hear about it.
>
> McD: Marx would consider a society of self employed as
no longer
> capitalist & that could be one way out but what he called capitalism,
>
surplus value, & Co., never existed at any time.

   "never existed"? Then where do profits come from? Buying cheap and selling dear?

>> KE: Or, maybe you think that capitalism will last forever.
>
> McD: The
market will last a good few thousand years yet but one day the Sun
> will expand so we will need to get away or die; & at a later day stars will
> cease to recycle, or they might do so. Things do not seem to last forever.

   The way tech evolution accelerates, capitalism has less than 30 years to go. Kurzweil explains why 'intuitive linear' predictions of the future are so often wrong. Without embracing the concept of accelerating progress, it's easy to think that tomorrow will be just the same as today, except maybe one more new gadget will appear on the market. That may be the way a few more tomorrows will turn out, but the rate of change is about to REALLY take off. Don't be left in the dust. Think about where we were a century ago, and then try to imagine how life will be a century from now.

>> KE: That shortage of labor can be created by legislating shorter work
>> hours
to keep pace with labor displacement caused by tech innovation.
>
> McD: Each innovation rises the marginal wage

   For the lucky few who have jobs and wages. What about those who don't?

> & so opens up many more jobs without the need
> for any
legislation or shorter hours.

   That may be the way it's been for a long time, but changes are accelerating, and people ought to be taught to share the vanishing work in anticipation of the time when smarter machines REALLY begin to murder jobs. Or, maybe you don't think the machines are getting smarter, and maybe you don't believe the widely reported story of the robot that wandered away from a factory and was nearly run over in the parking lot.

>> KE: The economy is dynamic, so mechanisms must be installed
>> to prevent a
crisis of overproduction, such as what caused the
>>
Great Depression of the 1930's.
>
> McD: Why do you think the 1930s had anything to do with
over-production?

   In the 1840's, Engels wrote (me3.436): ... "the alternation of boom and crisis, over-production and slump" ...

   In 1849, M+E wrote (me9.6): "Hence after two trade crises, which, it is true, were caused exclusively by the over-production of manufactured goods but in their extent cannot at all be compared with the crisis just ended, the drop in exports was double that of 1848, a year which was preceded by a glut in the Asian markets, two bad harvests, and speculation on a scale never seen before in the world, and a year when every corner of old Europe was shaken by revolutions!"

   In 1850, M+E wrote (me10.341): ... "the recession brought about by over-production" ...

   In 1850, M+E wrote (me10.490): "Not over-production, but over-speculation, itself only a symptom of over-production, therefore appears to the superficial view as the cause of the crisis. The subsequent disruption of production appears not as a necessary consequence of its own previous exuberance, but merely as a repercussion of the collapse of speculation. However, as we cannot at the present moment give a complete history of the crisis [after] 1843-45, we shall simply list the most significant of these same symptoms of over-production."

   M+E linked depression to over-production over 20 times in their Collected Works. The link between the two is 100% logical. If more is produced than what can be sold, then production needs to be slowed down, and the logical way to slow down production is to work less.

>>> DRS: Legislating shorter hours (and therefore lower real wages) on workers
>>> is forcing something on workers that they have shown they don't want.
>>
>> KE: Actually,
lower wages would result only from a LARGE reduction
>> in labor time, while small
reductions actually RAISE wages for all.
>
> McD: How can we
get more from doing less?

   Making the economy more inclusive would stimulate the economy. More people in the economy would stimulate production. As for the other solutions, deficit spending is inflationary, 'tax and spend' aggravates tax payers, but reducing hours aggravates only a minority of bosses who can well afford a minor inconvenience.

> You do not seem to be thinking of the fact that our income has to come
> from the product, Ken. If we
do less then less will be produced so we
> will have to have less income as a result. How can it be
just the same?

   Making the economy MORE inclusive means MORE products, not 'less'. Partial participation hurts the economy like nothing else.

>> KE: The old timers had a saying: "Whether you work by the piece or work
>> by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay.
" Capitalists always warn
>> workers not to ask for
shorter work hours due to an alleged reduction in
>> pay, because they want to reap the high profits that result from the
>> low wages caused by unhealthy competition for scarce jobs.
>
> McD: This madcap idea that
profits come from wages!

   Low wages translate into high profits, and vice versa. Marx wrote in Volume 3 of Capital (me37.244): ... "a high rate of profit is possible when the working day is very long, although labour is not productive. It is possible, because the wants of the labourers are very small, hence average wages very low, although the labour itself is unproductive. The low wages will correspond to the labourer's lack of energy. Capital then accumulates slowly, in spite of the high rate of profit. Population is stagnant and the working time which the product costs, is great, while the wages paid to the labourer are small."

>> KE: Lots of people on the treadmill of low wage jobs complain
>> about getting nowhere fast.
>
> McD: Maybe they should get a diferent job.

   More of a SOCIAL solution is appropriate.

>> KE: Some high-tech people, on the other hand, can't hog enough work
>> for themselves, and enjoy salting away lots of money for their early
>> retirements.
The USA works a month longer per year than in the 1960's.
>> Kids feel the effects of absentee parents for sure. A poll available at
>>
http://www.timeday.org/news-current.asp says:
>>
>> ... "
the non-profit Center for a New American Dream shows that what American
>> kids really want is not more stuff, but more time with friends and family.
>
> McD: Yes, I think people do err in neglecting their children all too often.

   Agreed.

>> KE: Capitalism is inseparable from the worker-boss relation, so trying to
>> give more credit for value creation to one side or the other is futile.
>
> McD: I think it is a
delusion. Supply & demand, the vulgar economics
> that Marx attempted to explain the reality behind, is way
nearer the
>
truth than his account & if there are more managers than laborers
> then the
latter will be paid more from the joint project.

   Valuable commodities are not created from supply and demand alone. Try producing without resources, human labor, capital, and time.

   Marx's last word was (me37.189): "Supply and demand determine the market price, and so does the market price, and the market value in the further analysis, determine supply and demand. This is obvious in the case of demand, since it moves in a direction opposite to prices, swelling when prices fall, and vice versa. But this is also true of supply."

 

05-10-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> That's a huge undertaking. For us to ensure that capital doesn't
> simply bounce out of our country taking with it the jobs that
labor
> is forced to depend on... restrictions on capital flight would have
> to be
applicable here as well as on foreign trade. So, we'd have
> to take on three battle fronts here, wouldn't we?

   Arriving at social justice is no easy job, but 'many hands make light work.'

>>> So, fortifying those institutions with some form of
>>> democratic influence and public pressure on
legislation...
>>> that would have to be the first step, don't you think?
>>
>> That's a good idea for a first step.
>
> Perhaps, but then we would also need to include in that first step
> a
coalition against foreign trade, capital flight, enforcement, and
>
establishing labor laws as well as global conformity. A very huge
> undertaking to be sure. Getting the US to conform, as you mentioned
> before, would set the example, but we must stop capital flight if we
> are to be effective. No American is going to support a cause that
> will worsen their personal situation, threaten their livelihood,
> reduce their quality of life, expose themselves to permanent
> unemployment and worse sheer destitution. I don't think that
> promoting a scheme that entitles us to
higher wages and shorter
> working hour weeks
will be turned down by any laborer, but
> do they realize that
capital can simply take flight?

   Making hours-of-labor laws (plus overtime, holidays, vacations, elimination of child labor and slave labor, etc.) more uniform all over the world would reduce incentive for capital to flee. It would also be a profound expression of international solidarity between workers.

> If so, would they still be as willing a partner
> in any such endeavor? Do you plan on addressing
> and expressing to
labor that they are in danger of losing
> everything
to some third world country whose government is
> so willfully laxed that capital funds their economy and their
>
labor instead, leaving us without even the option of holding
> a working poor position? I think that they should be told
> of these possibilities, and how to avoid them.

   International uniformity of labor laws would remove incentive for capital to flee.

> It would seem to me that you take the enforcement
> and global issues
far too lightly [no offense meant
> here], relying on some
government institution, or Union
> Representative
to 'watch-dog' events involving infractions
> and then having to rely upon yet another element, public
> pressure, to demand action, resolution, and
justice.

   Not many mechanisms designed for enforcement exist, other than what have already been created. They are not as strong as they could be, for sure. {This answer was unfortunately inadequate. What eluded me at the time of my published answer was the fact that militant labor could pursue a shorter work hours and higher wages agenda at anytime, and without harm. Suppose they were to insist upon full participation, damn the torpedos, and full speed ahead: As becca indicated, capital would flee. But, not all capital could flee, for some domestic capitalist system would ALWAYS have to remain behind to serve the domestic market, even if every scrap of capital that COULD flee, did so. Activists thus have no excuse for failing to insist upon full participation for fear of what capital would do.}

> How do you envision any improvement over the
> already seriously lacking efforts made by those to whom you
> seem to feel
we can and will rely on now?; ie, state and global
> institutions
, local legislators, an informed and an 'able to be
> active' participating public..

   Many enforcement officials are well intentioned, but suffer from a lack of public interest, are understaffed, underfunded, so can only do so much. Not much improvement can be expected from Republicans, so maybe the lesser of 2 evils needs to be given another chance in 2004. Republicans can only make things worse for us.

> I think that we both agree that it is Labor that will have to
> carry the burden of
initiating the necessary changes, but while
> it would seem to me that you're
blaming Labor for being weak,
> and gullible, I on the other hand blame
capital's power for
>
Labor's weakness. No matter, it will still be Labor's
> outcries that establish any progression.

   Weak Labor allows capital to get away with a lot, and to perpetrate evil without fear. Workers hold their noses and do what bosses say. If they fail to do the evil they are commanded to do, then they end up on the street. If they became conscious enough to create an artificial scarcity of labor, then evil bosses could be boycotted without fear of self damage, for then other employment could easily be found. In that way, clear cutting the last of the redwoods could be boycotted, as well as the manufacture of land mines at the Alliant factory in Minnesota. An artificial scarcity of labor would give Labor awesome moral power.

>> During the Spanish Civil War, communists executed anarchists
>> over '
ideological deviations'.
>
> That's
too simplistic an interpretation for my liking. Any honest
> intellectual is going to recognize that the involvement of the USSR's
>
Communist Party was not a matter of Communists turning against
>
Anarchists.

   It wasn't the Russians who pulled the triggers. I wish I had Harvey Klehr's book at my fingertips, but when the USSR folded up in 1991, many Secrets of Communism opened up to Western scholars. I'm under the impression that American communists pulled the triggers. I'll make a more diligent search for that eye-opening book so I can better defend myself next round.

> There were no ideological deviations...

   Lenin was very big on identifying political opponents as deviants, so much so that his Collected Works even contain a short category devoted to "Deviations in the Party". American communists were also big on identifying opponents as 'deviants', and that carried over to their involvement in the Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, enabling communists in high command to use abbreviated martial 'justice' to terminate ideological opponents with extreme prejudice. It isn't the prettiest memory of that war, but the evidence is there.

> there was simply put; those who claimed to be Communists
> in order to take advantage of a situation, whom never held
> to any ideology of
Communism, and on the other hand, those
>
A/S/Cs who did hold to those principles that were killed by
> those who didn't. There were
no ideological differences between
> the two because the USSR's claims to be
Communist could not
> be established in the first place, especially since they didn't
> follow in practice any of the
principles of Communism.

   It seems to be a trend of modern revolutionism to erase memory of past ideological struggles, and to try to moosh all revolutionism together under one grand revolutionary banner, in stark contradiction to reality. If differences didn't exist, Bakunin wouldn't have been booted out of Marx's First International in 1872. Why did Lenin come to power, in spite of all of the competing interests in overthrowing the Romanovs? The Bolsheviks better represented the interests of workers and peasants than any other leadership group, and thus could gather more people around them.

   If Lenin and others weren't Marxists, then they would not have done such good scholarly work preserving and publishing the works of Marx and Engels. The 45 volumes of Lenin's Collected Works are replete with defenses of Marxism vs. other tendencies. If it had not been for the Bolsheviks coming to power, Marxism would never have become as popular as it did at one time, and today would be an obscure scholarly pursuit. The Russian revolution was a near carbon copy of Marx's scenario, with the exception of Europe not having long-lasting revolutions in support of the Bolsheviks. If Europe HAD revolted in support, the world today would be MUCH different. But, the 'power and property' path to classless and stateless society was flawed enough to cause it to be abandoned by a billion people after 1989, and to render it forever branded as a mistaken path. Fire and sword revolutions are over and done with in the West. Some dedicated revolutionary leaders know as well as I that the socialist fire and sword revolution is dead, but don't want anyone else to know, because a major goal of any movement is to develop a dedicated following. But, as soon as people begin to think for themselves, the fire and sword revolution is kaput.

>> Those irreconcilable divisions still exist,
>
> No they don't, indeed they
never did exist. Unless you can
> show me different.

   When I googled 'left ideological divisions', I got back 46,100 web pages.

   When I was an anarchist who thought I was a socialist, I and a writer for our weekly paper went to a speech by Irwin Silber, writer for the Maoist 'Guardian'. When others asked questions, they all proudly announced their radical political affiliations, while my 'comrade' didn't announce his. While riding back, I asked him 'why not announce your affiliation', and he replied, 'Those people are going to kill us!' And, I assumed that he meant 'if they ever get to power', and I wondered what we had done that was so bad. Later, after I did my research into the fact that our program was 'supported' by nothing more solid than quotes out of context, I realized that we undoubtedly would be identified as 'deviants' and counter-revolutionaries by that Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite and Maoist crowd, so the writer did not wish to draw attention to himself and his 'deviance', for fear of not living a long and happy life. Of course, back in the mid 1970's, communist tendencies were much stronger than anarchist tendencies, but, since 1989, that's no longer true. Not having been a radical party person since 1977, I don't know how high the party and ideological passions may run nowadays. Some memories do last, however.

   One irreconcilable difference: Replacing existing states with communist workers' states vs. replacing existing states directly with an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things. No matter how hard a revolutionary might try, doing both at the same time is impossible, so a difficult choice between one or the other would have to be made. These are the 2 horns of the dilemma that would have to be faced if overthrowing democracies was contemplated.

> Like I said I hold any self-proclaiming A/S/C accountable
> for upholding the theoretical principles and ideological practices
> and directives, objectives and priorities, and if those are not met,
> then no such claim to be a
A/S/C is appropriate, let alone accurate!
> If you can't cook, then you're not entitled to be called a chef. If you
> can't dance ballet, then you should never be called a Ballerina.
>
> We've already spent and wasted far too much time on this myth;
>
State Capitalism is not Anarchism/Socialism/Communism. There
> can be no deviations in theory if the theory was never adopted
> in the first place!

   'State capitalism vs. the others' is a real can of worms. It'll have to wait until next time, or later.

> Marx said it would take the development of the working class
> consciousness before the total and complete revolutionary
>
D. of the P. would become a possibility.

   I looked up all 10 refs to 'class consciousness' for a Mar. 26 WSM dialogue with Brian, and never found it used re the dotp. M+E regarded evolution of the means of production as driving development of class consciousness, and never saw a need to make an extraordinary effort to push its development.

> Since that stage in prehuman history hasn't advanced
> upon us as yet I'd agree with what you say. That for now
> it's not feasible, nor viable at the moment. But you're
> not meaning to say that
Marx's notion is not ever a
> possibility
are you?

   Marx's dotp became hopelessly obsolete when Europe failed to have long lasting revolutions in support of the Bolsheviks. Hope for a fire and sword dotp is now totally lost. The dotp scenario really only applied to replacing feudal monarchies with republics. In the late 1800's, new bourgeois republics were expected by Marx to quickly convert into social democracies (with universal suffrage, and with expropriatory policies). Around the time of the establishment of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels were recorded as saying in the General Council of the First International: "Middle class republics have become impossible in Europe." ... "Republicanism and middle class government can no longer go together." ... "the republic must become socialistic." ... "The International wanted to establish the social and democratic republic and therefore it was high treason to belong to it." ... "Before our ideas could be carried into practice we must have the republic." ... "no republican movement could become serious without becoming social."

   Acquiring socially controlled democratic republics was the precondition for the rest of the Marxist agenda. Social republicanism was driven by wage labor replacing peasant labor during the 1800s. France's exclusive new bourgeois republic formed in 1870 was quickly replaced by the Commune in 1871, and, in 1917, the new Kerensky republic was also quickly replaced by the Bolsheviks. This part of the dotp scenario was similar to Marx's, but neither the revolutions of 1871 nor 1917 led to supportive, long-lasting, and simultaneous revolutions in the most developed countries, which is where the Marxist revolutionary scenario met its demise. Socialist revolutions occurred in less developed countries without triggering long-lasting revolutions in Europe and the USA. Many European countries won universal suffrage by means of gradual reform, but did not use that tool to 'expropriate expropriators' as Marx wanted. Instead, with the rise of surplus value to unprecedented heights, owning private property became a prize coveted by all. That's because 'labor creates property', and "the abolition of private property will become a reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of labour". Marx contradicts Marx, and either can be used to make a case for expropriation, or against. It's a free choice as to which Marx to adhere.

   Marx's dotp was flawed enough for the over-ambitious anarchist theory to compete, but, as a different type of a 'power and property' revolution, it too failed to attract a sufficient following. Private property will be invincible for as long as surplus value generation is given carte blanche.

> Ken, I had in mind to making up a website 'Worker's Advocate' ...
> Would you be interested in promoting the
higher wages, shorter hours
> plan on that site if I do get it up?

   It definitely sounds interesting. I'll see what I can do, time allowing.

> However I do have an added comment to make on one of your other
> postings ...that being the reclaiming of our '
surplus value' while
> supplanting Marx's notion of
expropriating property... and while
> I agree with both of these, I see no reason to
forego one for the other...

   Deeper reflection upon the very limited conditions under which expropriation was feasible might influence the choice between that goal and the more feasible goal of winning fuller participation in the economy.

> Ultimately the D. of the P. will use whatever means (ie;
>
taking control of the political apparatus includes actively
> participating in that political apparatus until ultimately
> we have gained control of it) are available to us.

   Marx hoped that republics enjoying universal suffrage would adopt expropriatory policies and mount an assault upon private property, but few in the most developed countries were interested. Marx's later works failed to demonstrate the association of labor with property, though his early German Ideology proclaimed (me4.278): ""Labour" is the living basis of private property, it is private property as the creative source of itself. Private property is nothing but objectified labour. If it is desired to strike a mortal blow at private property, one must attack it not only as a material state of affairs, but also as activity, as labour. It is one of the greatest misapprehensions to speak of free, human, social labour, of labour without private property. "Labour" by its very nature is unfree, unhuman, unsocial activity, determined by private property and creating private property. Hence the abolition of private property will become a reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of "labour" ...

   If Marx had integrated that idea with his later theory of surplus value, the world might have been spared a lot of sorrow.

> That is what we must ultimately overcome;
> Capital's power to destroy
any viability and/or
> feasibility towards humanity realizing another alternative
> social solution to organizing and arranging our societies.

   Capitalism the destroyer? If capitalism wasn't liberating the human race from toil, more people might agree that it is totally destructive. But, according to liberation capitalist A.O. Dahlberg, 'capitalism would be an ideal system of production if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor.' Everyone would be employed, the profit incentive would be free to eliminate human labor from production, and the benefits of improved productivity would be taken in the form of increased leisure, which would lead to the abolitions of capital and labor, and the dawn of classless society. Liberation capitalism is a different way to arrive at Marx's 'higher phase of communist society', but enjoys the advantage of being feasible.

> I checked out the site, but didn't see how they plan on dealing
> with capital flight,
international labor policy and enforcement...
> More with dealing directly with domestic concerns... I'll look around
> some more.. I only went through it quickly, all I had time for, even
> when I did have some time. I'll get back to it however.
>
> Thanks and Cheers, Rebecca

   Their focus may be narrow, but achieving fuller participation in the economy would help millions of people.

 

05-10-03

   McD1st wrote:

> DRS: If you pass a law limiting hours of work, ...

   Such laws are already well known in every civilized country, so need only to be made stricter by amendment.

> DRS: If you pass a law limiting hours of work, you injure those workers
> who want to worker
longer than the enforced maximum.

   Ambitious people ought to be free to work themselves into riches, or even work themselves to death, if so inclined. But, those who want a slot in the legal economy ought to be able to get that as well, otherwise we'd have an economy for the ambitious, and for few others.

> McD: How was that in the working class interests?

   I thought we agreed that 'the USA doesn't have a working class', so therefore it can't have working class interests. But, not to dodge the issue: when it comes to rights, the right of everyone to a piece of the economy ought to be higher than the right to over-indulge, and, in so doing, rob others of opportunities to thrive.

>> Raw materials add their entire value to commodities,
>> while machinery and buildings, etc., add their
>> value in the form of depreciation.
>
> DRS: According to Marx,
"constant capital" (capital) cannot create new value.

   I never said 'constant capital creates new value'. It TRANSFERS its value: me36.232 "For the entire length of the working period, the part of the value daily transferred to the product by the fixed capital accumulates in layers, as it were, until the product is finished. ... Whether a steam-engine transfers its value daily piecemeal to some yarn, the product of a discrete labour process, or for three months to a locomotive, the product of a continuous act of production, is immaterial as far as laying out the capital required for the purchase of the steam-engine is concerned. In the one case its value flows back in small doses, for instance weekly, in the other case in larger quantities, for instance quarterly."

> That's why he calls it constant capital. Only "variable capital" (labor) can
> create new value
, in Marx's theory. That's why he calls it variable capital.

   True. In a review of Marx's Capital, Engels wrote (me20.285): "The portion invested in labour-power does change its value; it produces: 1) its own value, and 2) surplus-value - it is variable capital."

> Thus, in c + v + s, s is always entirely produced by v and never in the
> slightest degree by c.
This is the distinctive feature of Marx's theory of
>
price. According to him, c merely passes on its value to the product, while
> v both passes on its value and adds new value, which is surplus-value.

   That's the way I remember it as well. But, you've often denied the existence of surplus value, so why teach it?

> Thus, in Marx's account, if the owner of c gets any of s, this is robbed
> from the owner of v.
This is why Marx calls it "loot", "swag", "robbery",
> "
exploitation", etc. He also calls it "unpaid labor". It is unpaid, in
> his view,
because the owner of c has not contributed to the
> production of s
, which is entirely due to v.

   Modern writers like to exaggerate in order to whip outraged activists into revolutionary fervor. Marx barely equated surplus value extraction (or exploitation) with 'robbery'. Engels even wrote (me25.151): "The whole process can be explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery, force, the state or political interference of any kind necessary."

   Exploitation of labor is purely civil, done by contract, while robbery is criminal, with duress imposed on the victim. If workers would like to be robbed, they'd go to their ATM machines at midnight. Marx often described wages as an exchange of equivalent for equivalent, but insinuated 'robbery' only once, in Capital (me35.581):

   "Though the latter with a portion of that tribute purchases the additional labour power even at its full price, so that equivalent is exchanged for equivalent, yet the transaction is for all that only the old dodge of every conqueror who buys commodities from the conquered with the money he has robbed them of."

   Marx did identify surplus value with 'loot' a handful of times, as well as 'booty'. 'Swag' was never used. Variations of 'exploitation' must have been preferred, for that term shows up over 1600 times.

> In neoclassical price theory, which I accept as true, capital equipment
> makes a contribution to the value of output, along with labor.
Furthermore,
> in a
free market, the owner of each factor tends to get paid the amount of
> that contribution.
All this was sorted out by Philip Henry Wicksteed and
> John Bates Clark at the end of the nineteenth century. There is
no
>
surplus value. Surplus value is a demonstrable error.

   In that case, how is profit created?

> McD: Marx held that all value came from living labour.

   True enough. {All NEW value, that is.}

> DRS: Exactly. He called capital ("constant capital") "dead labor", and
> claimed
it was unable to make a contribution to the production of new value.

   That's true. Marx wrote in Capital (me35.205): "By turning his money into commodities that serve as the material elements of a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour with their dead substance, the capitalist at the same time converts value, i.e., past, materialised, and dead labour into capital, into value big with value, a live monster that is fruitful and multiplies."

(me34.397): "This power of preserving value and creating new value is therefore capital's power, and the process appears as one of capital's self-valorisation, while the worker who creates the value - value alien to him - is on the contrary impoverished."

   'Impoverish'? If Marx could have foreseen how today's average workers live, he would have lowered his expectations of violent proletarian revolution.

> Workers have taken most of the gains of increased productivity
> in
higher real wages, but they have taken some of those gains
> in
shorter working hours. They could, if their preferences
> had been different, have taken more of the gains in
shorter
> hours
and fewer of the gains in increased wages.

   Well, such is society's choice, but the lack of guidance from responsible citizens and agencies promotes vicious competition, as though 'not working ourselves into a frenzy results in complete failure', whereas working ourselves into a frenzy often DOES ensure early demise. A number of Japanese citizens have been known to succumb to Karoshi - death caused by overwork.

> DRS: ... most people are both workers and capitalists.
> They get
returns on savings as well as payment for labor
> services
. For example, most workers have retirement funds,
> which may be invested in the
stock exchange, giving them a
> return for their retirement. On a
Marxian analysis, this is
>
surplus value exploited from workers, including themselves.

   Workers exploit themselves? How do you explain that?

> DRS: KE seems to be saying that the ratio of business profits
> to wages keeps rising.

   No, I don't say that. Marx wrote that surplus value rates can INCREASE while profit rates DECLINE (me37.211): "But proceeding from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, it is thereby proved a logical necessity that in its development the general average rate of surplus value must express itself in a falling general rate of profit."

me37.239 "We have just seen that even a rising rate of surplus value has a tendency to express itself in a falling rate of profit. The rate of profit would equal the rate of surplus value only if c = 0, i.e., if the total capital were paid out in wages."

   So many activists worry about the falling rate of profit, but I don't worry about profit any more than Marx did. The historical tendency is for the rate of exploitation (aka the rate of surplus value) to increase, so workers need shed no tears over the falling rate of profit, which is no more of a tragedy than a mere mathematical technicality.

> If this were true, it's not clear that there would be anything wrong with
> it, because: 1. most of business profits are reinvested to increase future
> output; 2. business profits that are not reinvested go into the pockets
> of anyone who saves and invests, and most of these people are workers.
>
> However, the facts don't seem to corroborate this trend anyway. For
> example,
corporate profits seem to have been hovering around ten
> percent of national income for some time
(In 2001, the last year
> available in the
current Abstract, this was 9.3 percent).

   Say, while you've got that book open, does it indicate any kind of historical trend with regard to either rising or declining profits?

>> KE: Capital tends to drive necessary labor down to zero (which should
>> arrive by 2029, using Kurzweil's estimation).
>
> DRS: I have not read Kurzweil but I do know how Marx defines "
necessary
> labor
": the proportion of the working day in which the worker reproduces
> the value of his labor power
. Is this going to become zero within 27
> years
? Doesn't seem to make much sense.

   It takes time for new technologies to become a positive asset. Though they've been around since WW2, computers (as we know them) never provided a net savings of labor until 1995. Up until then, more effort was expended in developing them than what they saved by easing repetitive labor tasks. So, they've only been a net plus for 8 years. That positive net may be in its infancy, but its positive worth is rising at an exponential rate, and the exponential rate itself is rising exponentially. Productivity will soon take off like a rocket, and human physical labor soon become totally redundant.

>> KE: Marx speculated that the abolition of necessary labor would also
>> result in the abolition of surplus labor (and value).
Speed the day
>> when the machines create all of the food, clothing, and shelter
>> anyone could ever need, and for free.
>
> DRS: Well, are you saying
this is going to happen within 27 years?
>
> McD: It will
never arrive. Progress opens up new lines of production.

   Well, yes, I do expect it to happen, due entirely to the double exponential acceleration of progress. Human intelligence will soon be outclassed by machine intelligence. Networked intelligence several magnitudes greater than human is awesome to contemplate.

> DRS: Legislating down the working day will merely force workers to have
> fewer goods (lower real wages) than they would like.
We see today that
>
quite a number of workers choose to hold two jobs.

   Historically, reduced work hours have been perfectly compatible with higher standards of living, all due to increased productivity, an often neglected factor. A higher standard of living, in spite of reduced work time, is the 20th century experience, is it not? Any reason why the trend cannot continue, even with a social DETERMINATION to reduce labor time?

   At year 2000 rates, Kurzweil estimates that the 20th century experienced 20 years worth of progress. At the same (year 2000) rate of progress, Kurzweil estimates that the 21st century will experience 20,000 years of progress, all due to a double exponential accelerating rate of progress. Even Marx noticed an accelerating rate of change. Here's a couple of examples:

(me37.771) ... "the transformation of feudal agricultural societies into industrial ones and the corresponding industrial struggle of nations on the world market depends on an accelerated development of capital, which is not to be arrived at along the so-called natural path, but rather by means of coercive measures."

me37.444 "In times of prosperity, intense expansion, acceleration and vigour of the reproduction process, labourers are fully employed. Generally, there is also a rise in wages which makes up in some measure for their fall below average during other periods of the commercial cycle."

   M+E wrote of accelerating economic trends over 200 times in their Collected Works, but modern activists never mention a word of it. In fact, what's often promoted is a rather static 'ruthless exploitation', all the more useful to whip indignant gullibles into obedient revolutionary fanatics.

> McD: Marx would consider a society of self employed as no longer
> capitalist &
that could be one way out but what he called capitalism,
>
surplus value, & Co., never existed at any time.

   What is the statistical trend of the growth or decline of self-employment? One American study says: "The fraction of working men who are self-employed hovered between 14 and 15 percent throughout much of the 1980s. The self-employment rate, however, declined somewhat in the 1990s, to about 13 percent by 1997." Not very promising. {me36.42 ... "wherever it takes root capitalist production destroys all forms of commodity production which are based either on the self-employment of the producers" ...}

> DRS: Exactly right. A couple of centuries hence, capitalism may evolve
> out of existence as
everyone becomes self-employed or belongs to small
> partnerships.
The market will remain indefinitely, of course.

   Your prediction - 'everyone will become self employed' doesn't look very promising, if the American study is any indication of its true direction. A UK study was more optimistic, however: "The recent figures are certainly dramatic, between 1981 and 1991 self-employment increased by 1.1 million (52%) to a total of 3.3. million (Cambell and Dally, 1992)." Much of that {increase} may have been due to the 'Thatcher effect'.

> DRS: ... Labor is always scarce, though.

   Wasn't always scarce. At one time, labor was so scarce that the bosses won legislation to impose long hours. Engels wrote (me20.288): "At the beginning laws were made to raise working-time; now to lower it. The first Statute of Labourers, 23rd Edward III, 1349, was passed under the pretext that the plague had so decimated the population that everyone had to do more work."

> DRS: Forcing people, against their wills, to work shorter hours for lower
> real incomes does not seem to be an improvement.
Working hours will continue
> to fall slowly over the long term, as real wages per hour continue to rise.

   Work hours should be shortened to provide more participation in the economy. Otherwise, we get an immoral world more dedicated to enriching the greedy than ensuring an equal chance for everyone. People must not be prevented from getting a piece of the pie. Work-hogging makes no sense where a smaller proportion of workers than ever creates necessities of life.

> McD: Each innovation raises the marginal wage & so opens up many
> more jobs
without the need for any legislation or shorter hours.

   It won't be that way for much longer. Capitalism truly is doomed, will be gone in a relative blink of an eye, and nothing can be done to save it, thank the goddess of accelerating innovations.

> DRS: Nothing like the 1930s depression is likely to happen again,
> for several reasons. One is that it is unlikely ever again to be
> the case that a single country, with a single set of
government
> policies
, will be such a large proportion of the world economy.

   'America sneezes, and the rest of the world catches cold' was the old saw.

> The claim that any crisis was due to overproduction must surely be
>
put into doubt by any subsequent period when production grows above
> what it was at the onset of that crisis. This immediately suggests
> that the problem
cannot have been due to excessive production,
>
but to some kind of mis-match in what was produced, or in
> some
failure of prices to move to clear markets.

   Marx also blamed speculation, but regarded speculation as a mere symptom of over production (me23.35): "That is what will happen again this time; these people {'manufacturers and speculators'} never learn anything, and even if they do, they are forced by the intrinsic law of capitalist production constantly to repeat the old, familiar cycle of boom, overproduction and crisis, and to repeat it on an ever-increasing scale until, finally, the proletariat rises and liberates society from enduring this absurd cycle."

   Marx may have been wrong about 'the proletariat rising and liberating' (in a fire and sword revolution), but was right about overproduction causing crises. Linking those two phenomena certainly isn't rocket science.

   Do you know why revolutionaries love to mystify the cause of depressions? If the cause of depression remains hidden, revolutionaries can proudly boast: 'Capitalism breeds depression, so only replacing capitalism with socialism can put an end to depression.' But, if over-production is rightfully named as the cause of depression, then the answer to depression is as plain as can be, and nothing is left but to work less! Revolutionaries in bitter competition with liberation capitalism therefore can't help but want to mystify the cause of depression. Many years ago, when you were in league with socialist revolutionaries, you probably learned how to mystify the cause of depression very well. Now that you are older and wiser, isn't it time you stopped mystifying?

>> KE: Actually, lower wages would result only from a LARGE reduction
>> in labor time
, while small reductions actually RAISE wages for all.
>
> McD: How can we
get more from doing less? You do not seem to be
> thinking of the fact that our
income has to come from the product,
> Ken. If we do less then less will be produced so we will have to
> have less income as a result. How can it be just the same?

   {Shorter work hours shouldn't be equated with doing less.} Making the economy more INCLUSIVE would STIMULATE the economy, resulting in the production of even MORE stuff. As for the other solutions, deficit spending is inflationary, 'tax and spend' aggravates tax payers, while reducing hours aggravates only a minority of selfish slave drivers.

> DRS: And if we could get more by working less, the capitalists,
> according to KE's way of thinking, would
jump at the chance to
> institute this
reform.

   Less work would net bosses PROPORTIONALLY less than workers, but full participation would stimulate the economy enough to be a boon to all, even to capitalists. {It should have been said all along that fuller participation in the economy would translate into more work hours in the PRODUCTIVE area of the economy, resulting in greater output of necessities.}

>> KE: The old timers had a saying: "Whether you work by the piece or work
>> by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay.
" Capitalists always
>> warn workers not to ask for
shorter work hours due to an alleged
>>
reduction in pay, because they want to reap the high profits that result
>> from the low wages caused by unhealthy competition for scarce jobs.
>
> McD: This madcap idea that
profits come from wages!
>
> DRS: I have never heard
capitalists warning workers in this way.

   Thanks for the correction. I have only heard this particular warning from activists who fear that a fellow activist might stray from supporting one or another madcap socialist scheme, so they lie like crazy about the alleged dangers or impossibility of reducing work hours, hoping that people will thereby be persuaded from straying away from socialist 'power and property' agendas.

> Capitalists want to pay the least for any given hour's work, of course,
> just as workers want to pay the least for any pound of ground beef.

   No argument there.

>> KE: Lots of people on the treadmill of low wage jobs complain
>> about
getting nowhere fast.
>
> DRS: The statistical evidence is that
most of them are getting
> somewhere slowly.

   Many are slowly getting closer to the grave. With all of the benefits of technology slowly accruing, one would think that people would want to begin to take things a little easier. After all, the struggle for survival has largely been won, so now it's time to take advantage of the benefits of labor saving technology, end the rat race, and start taking it easy. Instead, workers seem to be willing to cut each others throats competing for vanishing long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams. 'Death from overwork' is so common in Japan that they've coined a term for it - "Karoshi".

> McD: Maybe they should get a different job.

   That's not a social solution.

> DRS: Many people in the low paid jobs are not capable of doing high paid
> work, but their incomes are higher than they would otherwise be because
> of the contributions of the high paid workers and the investors.

   It's true that the march of technology has lifted nearly all boats, but a mass of people don't have meaningful access to the economy, so fuller participation remains an essential humane objective.

> McD: Yes, I think people do err in neglecting their children all too often.
>
> DRS: Yes, this is a personal error, and the remedy lies with
> individual parents.

   So, it's not a SOCIAL problem at all(?), even with 90% of the kids saying:

>> KE: "The study shows that 90% of kids ages 9-14 say friends and family are
>> "way more important" than things that money can buy. And while a strong
>> majority of survey participants say they feel pressure to buy things in
>> order to fit in, nearly six out of ten say they'd rather spend time having
>> fun with their parents than head out to the mall to go shopping.
"
>
> DRS: On the other hand, the arrival of children causes parents to
> value money more highly, because it is a means to help the children.

   That's right. New parents often end up with less money to spend on themselves. Having kids isn't free.

> DRS: Every economy is like a treadmill, in the sense that if no one
> did a stroke, we would all starve to death. We have more room to
> slack off today than humans have ever had throughout history.

   That's right. The overworked should take a breather, and give the underemployed more opportunities.

> DRS: I'm not sure that human labor will ever be completely replaced
> by automated equipment
, since people want the personal touch.

   There will always be room for arts and crafts, because another purpose of the new machines will be to serve our every whim, which could even include taking the opportunity to work our fingers to the bone creating whatever we might want. I've always wanted to build an Atkins dinghy using old-time methods. To create a thing of beauty with one's own 2 hands is a great source of joy.

> DRS: For once Oswald Spengler had it right. The social democrats were saying
> "
If we workers decide, the whole of industry will grind to a halt." Spengler
> commented: "
A sheep could say as much, if it fell into the machinery." The
> creative and dynamic element in production comes from individuals with
> vision, audacity, and will-power (and a bit of luck).

   If more of those talented people had been influential in previous centuries, the era of labor might have ended before we were born, and we would have nothing to complain about.

>> KE: It accomplishes nothing.
>
> McD: That the price system does it accomplishes a viable economic system
> & that it way more than we can reasonably expect from
communism.

   Communism is dead. Short live capitalism!

 

05-13-03

   In greensUSA, Gignetti wrote:

> The only alternative society is one that is based on full employment which
> is layed on the foundation of a
shorter work week. The goals of such a
> society would be the production of
more leisure time based on increasing
> economic efficiency
. I have heard it said that if goods and work were
> distributed equally that people would only have to work two days a week.

> While I wouldn't advocate such leveling as being counterproductive if this
> is true it is a telling statistic and it is clear that a tremendous amount
> of "leveling" IS in order. Another obvious characteristic of
government
> in the future is that there would have to be a true
World government
> to be able to tackle the myriad problems that the world faces.
>
> I might add that one glaring omission in the
Green Platform is the
> call for
guaranteed full employment. Unless and until we put this
> demand
forward as a first priority we will always be faced with the
> false dilemma of
jobs versus the environment and the competition
> among workers for jobs rather than vis-versa will always be
> an impediment to the advance of progressive politics.
>
> Unfortunately, it is only in the wake of a serious ecological
> or economic crisis that we will see a rebirth of our movement.

   Finally, there seems to be a Green who understands labor problems, understands efficient social solutions, and understands where the future is taking us all. Bravo!

 

05-13-03

   In greensUSA, bram quoted Gignetti:

>>> I might add that one glaring omission in the Green
>>> Platform is the call for guaranteed
full employment.
>
> Why not call for guaranteed life spans of 100 years with full
> health while you're at it?

   This bit of sarcasm indicates hostility against a shorter work week. Why the hostility? It's not like the human race needs to run itself ragged working long hours, now that a smaller proportion of workers than ever provide the necessities of life. Why shouldn't ALL workers be allowed to take it easier?

> I think that "calling for" the impossible would
>
weaken the Green Platform.

   What's so impossible? All of the industrialized countries already enjoy laws regulating hours of labor, so amending those laws is no big deal. France went to a 39 hour work week, then 35, and it may go up again, but it proves that the length of the work week can be changed at will.

> We have institutionalized unemployment in late-stage industrial
> societies, have to have it. In Europe, at least, they acknowledge
> it and put people on a "
dole".

   As productivity improves even more, and at an accelerating pace, it wouldn't make very much sense for half to work long hours, while the other half lazes about on the dole.

> If your goal is that the federal government create and fund jobs
> for the sake of jobs existing (I think of the "
Reeks and Wrecks" of
> Vonnegut's
Player Piano - ten men scheduled to do the work of one,
> all feeling demoralized by the sham of the effort
) and then have
> to manage those jobs, I think that's wasteful.

   The purpose of a shorter work week is to heighten participation in the economy without resorting to expensive make-work. 'Many hands make light work.' Give all hands a chance to find a niche in the legal economy.

> Have a friggin' dole, like Europe; and then let people on the dole
> with the ambition to pursue continuing education or do art or
> be activists or whatever dedicate themselves to something.
>
> -Bram

   A dole isn't the worst possible thing, by any means, but it's unfair to those who slave away all day long while able-bodied people laze about.

 

05-14-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> Ken;
>
> Wonderful comments! Thanks for taking the time
> and making the effort to answer my posts.

   My pleasure. You have a knack for understanding this subject.

> I'll read it all in more detail tonight....
> but for now, just this brief reply.
>
> You stated: "
If 'the purpose of expropriation is to
> enable
full participation', etc..."Re: Abolish Wages System
>
> Will eliminating the
expropriation of property lead us to
> obtaining the goal stated by Engels in that letter you cited,
> namely: "
the satisfaction of all reasonable needs will be
> assured to everyone in an ever-increasing measure.
"?

   'Satisfying all reasonable needs' in Engels' era required a lot more human labor than it does today. Western people today consume far beyond Engels' estimate of 'all reasonable needs', but electricity wasn't on tap when he was born, and it was just becoming commercial when he died in 1895. With productivity accelerating at a double exponential rate, commodities are obsolescing and being replaced with new stuff at a rate that would truly amaze M+E. Enormous resources avail today, but are still nothing compared to tomorrow's, for modern expectations of new wonders increase daily. All of our modern wonders were created without the (dubious) benefit of communist expropriation; the same goes for tomorrow's wonders. Few seem interested in rearranging property relations. Acquiring new gadgets and stuff is a popular rage. Look how fast the Apple iPods and music store took off. Still, the art of getting music to people is in its infancy.

> Will enabling the 'full participation in the economy' by the
> means you propose of '
higher wages and shorter work hours'
> instead of Marx/Engels
common property manifest for us
> that original intended goal? And how so? Or do you mean
> to disregard that objective in favor of another?
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   The forcible abolition of private ownership can safely be lain aside for now and forever. Private property is doomed anyway, but nothing could be done to hasten its demise prematurely, especially for as long as labor and capital still work to CREATE it. Nothing that is in the constant process of creation can easily be abolished. The growth of private property is commensurate with the growth of surplus value, so abolishing private property is inconceivable prior to the abolition of surplus value, and that depends upon first abolishing NECESSARY labor and value. Capitalism alone incorporates the civil and economic incentives to do that. Capitalism will finish the job of abolishing itself, but its death pains could be managed more intelligently. To train ourselves to manage its demise intelligently is the trick. {Actually, what should have been said was: The original goal was full participation, and the shorter work hours method is perfect for achieving that goal.}

   Just received your latest; will be working on it.

 

05-17-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> Hey'ya Ken;
>
> Well, can't say as I haven't learned a great deal here
> in our conversation from you...smile. I appreciate
> the tutoring!

   I learn a lot, too, from sincere efforts to communicate. Further down, new ground was broken while fleshing out a concept of future work. Sincerity is inspirational.

>> The forcible abolition of private ownership can safely be lain
>> aside for now and forever. Private property is doomed anyway, but
>> nothing can be done to hasten its demise prematurely, especially
>> for as long as
labor and capital still work to CREATE it.
>
> Well... then that's a relief for me. I took you to mean
> that we should give up on eventually ridding ourselves of
> the notion of private ownership to the means to production.
> Whether that be through
force or just from the natural
> development of social changes.
>
> I don't care if it comes through by
force, or voluntary
> decree, but, regardless, I believe
it will come about as a
> natural synthetic social process.

   Owners would have lots to say about having their property taken away, with or without compensation. Attempting to drive ownership out of existence prematurely would again result in needless strife. This particular aspect of Marxism needs to be transcended. Surplus value activism is useful, while forcible expropriation outwore its welcome.

>> Nothing that is in the constant process of creation can easily
>> be abolished. The growth of private property is commensurate
>> with the growth of
surplus value, so abolishing private property
>> is inconceivable prior to the
abolition of surplus value,
>
> Well.. historically '
inconceivable prior to' isn't
> quite accurate. There have been times wherein it
>
was possible to rid humanity of both at the same
> time, if even for a short period.

   Does a particular example come to mind?

>> and that depends upon first abolishing NECESSARY labor
>> and value.
>
> If you have the time and desire, How so?

   Imagine a future scenario in which NECESSITIES of life no longer require human input. All necessities are created by machines, plus distributed free of charge. Otherwise, it could be claimed that 'people are working for wages', but our original premise in this example is that human labor creates only SURPLUS value, not necessary value. Can a capitalist economy be imagined in which the necessities of life are all free, while everything else has to be paid for? Would bosses compete for workers and entice them with the promise of the luxuries they would then be able to buy? Would the promise of luxuries entice workers to compete amongst themselves for the best paying jobs? But, if all necessities could be produced effortlessly, then why not the luxuries as well? Or, are we talking about perhaps an interim period (of pure surplus value production) while the machines evolve enough to create absolutely EVERYTHING effortlessly? Maybe that interim period will arrive, but that peculiar era of pure surplus value production would only be a brief transition to the total abolition of human labor. The way the curves of necessary and surplus value are heading, this scenario just might happen.

   On the other hand, a militant proletariat (with nothing better to do) could conceivably drive down the length of the work week sufficient to eliminate surplus value completely, laboring only enough to create the value of labor power, and nothing more. But, without producing at least SOME surplus value, innovation would end, and day to day life would become as stagnant as a tar pit, perpetuating economy and scarcity forever. No fun in that hell, either. Better to give capital enough rope (surplus value) to innovate and hang itself with its innovations. In the meantime, driving down the length of the work week sufficiently to enable full employment would satisfy many longings for social justice.

>> Capitalism alone incorporates the civil and economic incentives
>> to do that. Capitalism will finish the job of abolishing itself,
>> but its death pains could be managed more intelligently.
>
> I've never doubted that
eventually capitalism would destroy
> itself
.. after all it is a self-destructing system, but will we
> have enough time to allow for the process to take its natural
> course before it destroys us and the planet? I'm not so sure.

   Capitalism could disappear in less than 30 years, if the charts of the double exponential growth of productivity are correct. That may be soon enough to forestall environmental disaster. Nanotechnology will use energy much more efficiently, will be hyper-intelligent and networked, and perform every disagreeable task.

> That's why I don't mind using force if necessary. I've always
> tended to the
Green's notion that 'We don't inherit the earth
> from our parents -- we borrow it from our children
'...

   In what kind of a situation would force be necessary?

>> To train ourselves to manage its demise intelligently
>> is the trick.
>
> Couldn't agree more!
>
> Sorry for not finishing off my other reply... I'll still
> attempt to get to it when I can:
>
> For now I'll just make mention of the fact that even prior to
> the split in the
Party at the 2sd. Congress in 1903 it was
> well known and established that
Lenin wanted autocratic
> leadership over the entire Political Party.

   'Autocratic'? But, autocracy was the system every progressive in Russia was pledged to overthrow. Autocratic rule over a party struggling to relieve the oppressed from autocracy contradicts itself. Lenin was repeatedly elected to high party positions because his performance earned trust and confidence.

> This is what eventually lead to even his closest, and
> most influential, supporters abandoning him, taking
> to making their own faction called '
Forwardists'.

   If the Vperyod Forwardists were that good, then why didn't they win?

> I don't believe, that such forms of autocracy, can ever be
> reconciled with any
A/S/C practice. Banish the name of
> Lenin from the
archives of historical anarchism - I say!

   {Was Lenin's name ever in the archives of historical anarchism? If it was, then probably only as an enemy of anarchism.} Democratic centralism and autocracy should not be confused. Revolutionaries can become autocrats (like Stalin) only after their party has won full state power. When an autocracy is in place, and {while} the oppressed strive to replace it with a democracy, competition between would-be leaders ensures that only the best and brightest will win.

> Ah..well.. be me right or be me wrong... I just think that
> way...smile.
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   If errors didn't happen, pencils wouldn't have erasers. :-)

 

05-19-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> An artificial scarcity of labor would give Labor awesome
>> moral power.
>
> I like the idea of
artificial labor scarcity. I think it gives
>
labor a real tool to wield against capital. I mean after hearing
> that the
Federation of Employers slogan "Who makes the
> Wealth - We Do!
" or something very similar to that... well,
> suffice it to say that the world will NOT stop producing wealth
> simply because all of the capitalists suddenly disappear off the
> face of the planet, However, if all the
laborers of the world
> suddenly vanished --poof-- production and generation of
> wealth would immediately come to an instant halt!

   That's true. Amending existing laws to create an artificial shortage of labor would accomplish the same thing as a general slow-down strike. For workers struggling in non-democracies, a syndicalist pact to stop working beyond a certain number of hours per day or week would be just as effective.

>> It wasn't the Russians who pulled the triggers. I wish I had
>> Harvey Klehr's book at my fingertips, but when the USSR folded
>> up in 1991, many
Secrets of Communism opened up to Western
>> scholars. I'm under the impression that American
communists
>> pulled the triggers. I'll make a more diligent search for that
>> eye-opening book so I can better defend myself next round.
>
> Please do, if possible. I'd be very interested in that. I
> take my reading list from the usual left
A/S/C sources,
>
Spunk Library, Info.org: M. Bookchin, N. Chomsky,
> Pierre Broué and Emile Témime, etc..

   The book is "Secrets of American Communism". After communism collapsed in Russia in 1991, American scholars were given access to Russian files about the CPUSA. The first volume (of a planned series) was published in 1995, which I read over the air during some of my weekly talk shows on Free Radio Berkeley. The book is still eluding my best efforts to find it, however.

>> Lenin was very big on identifying political opponents as
>>
deviants, so much so that his Collected Works even contain a
>> short category devoted to "
Deviations in the Party". American
>>
communists were also big on identifying opponents as 'deviants',
>> and that carried over to their involvement in the
Brigades during
>> the
Spanish Civil War, enabling communists in high command to use
>> abbreviated martial '
justice' to terminate ideological opponents
>> with extreme prejudice. It isn't the prettiest memory of that
>>
war, but the evidence is there.
>
> And just how is this, or these actions representative of the
>
A/S/C's principles or the practice of those principles? As
> I mentioned earlier..I hold every self-proclaiming
A/S/C
> personally accountable for conducting themselves accordingly...

   Tragic it was. The red republican flag held high should have united all, but divisions prevented perfect unity.

> If they want to tap-dance yet all the while insist that they
> are performing nothing less than ballet... well.. a bit too crazy
> a notion for me I'm afraid... smile. If they want me to recognize
> them as a ballerina, then they'd better learn first how to dance
> ballet. Not simply throw themselves around on a floor, kicking
> their feet about, calling that the truest form of ballet..
>
> I don't recognize Lenin as an
A/S/C in any sense of the
> term... nor many others... They are the only
deviants I recognize,
> and just what they attempted to
deviant from..who knows! Because
> they certainly
weren't, in any accurate sense of the term, an A/S/C
> to begin with. In short they deserve neither my recognition, nor
> the entitlement to be called an
A/S/C. I'm just not one to give
> in to
their self-delusions...If you can't cook, then get the hell
> out of my kitchen, because I don't need a dishwasher
> claiming to be a chef!
>
> Unless, like I said, you can show me different.

   An ongoing tragedy of modern activism is that arguments persist over the 'best' way of dealing with power and property, even though the state and property can never again be dealt with in the same manner Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and others dealt with power and property. Those leaders cannot be faulted for coming to power in revolutionary opportunities Americans will nevermore enjoy, but sectarianism prevents history from being appraised realistically.

>> It seems to be a trend of modern revolutionism to erase memory
>> of past ideological struggles,
>
> It seems to me the trend all along has been to see who could
> distort the simple methodological practices to the principles of
> the
A/S/C doctrines the most, all the whilst hold stead-fast unto
> the
label A/S/C. But I think I know what you mean.
>
>> and to try to moosh all revolutionism together under one grand
>> revolutionary banner, in stark contradiction to reality.
>
> I'm not in favor of this. I don't want to moosh together all those
> various fractions, that I wouldn't even consider to be similar to
>
A/S/C, rather I want us to get back to the original A/S/C's
> intentions, and desires... and the means by which to get us there.

   The trouble with the original intent of the founders of A/S/C is that so much of it revolves around gaining control over power and property, which was feasible only in conjunction with winning independence, or overthrowing monarchies, when communists found themselves in possession of full state power, and could do with property whatever they wanted. Though the political landscape teems with would-be dragon-slayers, democracies provide little scope for heroics.

> And Foregoing Direct Democratic participation in the affairs of
> social/economic personal decision making...certainly won't win my
> acknowledgement towards any methodological practice of
A/S/C, neither
> will
turning over to some 'statehood' the means to production, along
> with the decisive power over those means to production.

   Turning the means of production over to the hands of 'the state' may not sound very progressive, but M+E advocated it in the Communist Manifesto (me6.504): "The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible."

   By 'state', of course, M+E meant the new proletarian dictatorship, a state of a new type, a state in transition to dissolution. That theoretical program element never changed. Engels repeated it in his 1880 "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" (me24.320): "The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into State property."

   Concentrating ownership of the means of production into the hands of the state has often mistakenly been confused with 'state capitalism', even though Engels often enough distinguished between the two. In spite of Engels' obvious knowledge of the difference, my first and last revolutionary party willfully and erroneously claimed that 'Engels didn't know the difference between socialism and state capitalism.'

>> If differences didn't exist, Bakunin wouldn't have been booted out of
>> Marx's
First International in 1872. Why did Lenin come to power,
>> in spite of all of the competing interests in
overthrowing the
>> Romanovs
? The Bolsheviks better represented the interests
>> of workers and peasants than any other leadership group,
>> and thus could gather more people around them.
>
> Of course, I'm no expert by any measure, as is obvious to any,
> but wasn't it the
Bolsheviks that pretended to go along with the
>
A/S/C programme just to retain influence?

   That would reduce the Bolshevik revolution to a sham and a fraud, but a sham movement could never overthrow 2 governments and capture full state power. Those accomplishments alone would indicate a 'real McCoy'. Today's democratic politics differ enormously from the Russian {anti-monarchist} politics of a century ago. The sordidness of American political ploys should not be insinuated upon successful revolutionary movements. Competition between the many anti-monarchists ensured that only the best and the brightest could topple governments and replace them with a regime lasting most of the 20th century.

> Didn't this become well known shortly
> after Lenin's
establishment of power?

   This is news to me.

> Wasn't it Lenin who openly stated in 1920 in one of his
> papers, can't remember which one, that he never did have
> any intention of turning over the economic decision making
> process to the people, nor the means to production...

   Certainly the Workers' Opposition wanted to take control of the means of production, and maybe production would have gone smoother if they had, but Lenin opposed it. Maybe the lack of a central directing authority would have resulted in worse chaos in the post-revolutionary period of rather extreme turmoil. Who knows?

> even while he admitted that he had previously attested to the
> fact that he would as soon as the state was no longer needed
> for production organization, allocation and distribution?

   Can anyone say at what point 'the state was no longer needed' for those functions? 1918, 1921, 1925, 1933, 1955, 1977? Anyone claiming that 'there came a time in Russia's post-revolutionary history when the state could have been abolished' manifests unrealistic optimism. It also flatters the Bolsheviks as having accomplished something so breathtakingly spectacular that the abolition of the state then became conceivable (to some dreamers). What was that spectacular accomplishment? The Bolsheviks did exactly what the anarchists wanted to do: the Bolsheviks abolished the monarchy as well as the Kerensky republic. But then they set themselves up in power, which is an anarchist no-no, but a Marxist-Leninist yes-yes.

> I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like any legitimate
> A/S/C practice
I know of.

   The failure of Europe to revolt en masse in sympathy with the Bolsheviks in 1917 doomed them to very tough sledding, not at all how it would have been if all of Europe revolted simultaneously, in accordance with Marx's vision. A single revolutionary country, scorned by all other governments, could barely be expected to hang onto power, never mind last as long as it did. Was hanging on to power a crime? Should the Bolsheviks have given their revolution a 5 year time limit, and capitulate if Europe failed to support them within that limit? That would have been very large of them.

   A very common error is to blame Lenin for everything that went wrong, but the premise of that error is the mistaken belief that 'The Russian revolution would have gone perfectly if the Bolsheviks had not taken state power.' That critique proceeds out of the old anarchist-communist split: what to do after deposing the monarchy. Replace the monarchy directly with a classless and stateless administration of things? Or, with a communist workers' state? That choice seemed a lot more realistic to some people in 1917, and the battle continues in various forums, though fruitlessly. Socialist revolution is not a relevant choice in the USA, so statism vs. anti-statism is also irrelevant.

> Once Lenin abandoned this most fundamentally basic underlying
> principle of A/S/C practice
... Indeed, if he ever held to it, as he
> seems to admit to
this by his own hand..Well..suffice it to say.. he
> threw off the
A/S/C label... In my opinion, no longer deserving of
> that title.

   Further down in this message, you claim as an A/S/C principle "a stateless, classless society". In that case, on what date following the Bolshevik revolution could class distinctions and the state have been abolished? It may not be an easy question, but I assume that those who are critical of Lenin MUST have this answer.

   A similar can of worms that maybe I shouldn't open, but it is simply too rich to pass up: Some activists claim that the means of production were not well-enough developed for socialism in Marx's day, but supposedly are well-enough developed today. The unanswered question is: On what date between 1871 and 2003 did the means of production reach the point where socialism did become feasible? 1905, 1917, 1935, 1959, 1975, 1991, 2003?

>> If Lenin and others weren't Marxists, then they would not have
>> done such good scholarly work preserving and publishing the
>> works of Marx and Engels.
>
> Oh, I don't know... they came in pretty handy for Lenin to
> interpret
in any manner he saw fit to... and to forego at
> any moment, I might add.

   In that case, in what way did Lenin misinterpret Marx?

>> The 45 volumes of Lenin's Collected Works are replete with
>> defenses of
Marxism vs. other tendencies.
>
> I suppose that would depend on the accuracy of Lenin's
> interpretation of Marx's works.

   Well, make a specific charge, and then we can discuss it.

>> If it had not been for the Bolsheviks coming to power, Marxism
>> would never have become as popular as it did at one time, and
>> today would be an obscure scholarly pursuit.
>
> Perhaps, but that's speculation isn't it?

   It is speculation, but suppose the Bolsheviks had been defeated by the White counter-revolution within a year or two: Chances are strong that the Marxist revolutionary scenario would then have been declared dead as a doornail, and maybe Mao would not have tried anything bolder than a bourgeois-democratic revolution, which still would have been an advance over war-lordism.

> And weren't the A/S/C principles already being practiced
> by some in Russia? Not that this is an indication that
> capital wouldn't have destroy those efforts as well,
> sooner than later, I assume.

   Who in Russia besides Makhno was in a position to practice A/S/C principles? Trotsky wrote about him: "Faced with the necessity of choosing at once between the kulaks, Petlyura, the Polish gentry and Wrangel, on the one hand, and, on the other, the poor peasants, the workers, the Communists and the Soviet power, the majority of the Makhnovites have opted to go over to the side of the Red Army. ... it is necessary, above all, that the Makhnovites themselves purge their troop of kulak bandit elements" ...

   Depending on the strength of the kulak element, Makhno vacillated for and against the Bolsheviks: "Makhno's troop has for a long time been waging tireless and fierce struggle against the workers' and peasants' Red Army: the Makhnovites have disrupted our rear, damaged the railway lines, cut down telegraph poles, set fire to storehouses, blown up bridges, derailed trains and hanged Communists."

   Such malice doesn't seem very representative of A/S/C principles.

>> The Russian revolution was a near carbon copy of Marx's scenario,
>> with the exception of Europe not having
long-lasting revolutions in
>> support of the Bolsheviks
.
>
> I don't think that I'd agree with
this. But then again, I'm
> no expert either...

   The political history of a century and more ago revolved around replacing absolute monarchies with republics, with red republicans offering SOME competition to bourgeois republicans, but only in less-developed countries. Lenin was the first red republican to succeed for a significant length of time, but the revolution was so crippled by war, civil war, crop failures, peasant and worker revolts, etc., that the democratic principles of Marx's red republicanism were superseded in time by Stalinist dictatorship. Stable democracies were not overthrown in support of the Bolsheviks. Is anything here untrue?

>> But, the 'power and property' path to classless and stateless society
>> was flawed enough to cause it to be abandoned by a billion people after
>> 1989, and to render it forever branded as a mistaken path.
>
> I am far from agreement with
this.

   Perhaps a few failed attempts at abolishing private ownership in democracies would be more persuasive than mere words. If history would be ignored, then experience can still teach an awful lot.

> Indeed, many in Russia, Poland, Asia, and Latin America are
> asserting that
they wish to have back Communism...Socialism,
>
anything but capitalism. Indeed, in Poland the Communist Party
>
was voted back into government just a few years ago -
> weren't they?

   Post-1989 Eastern Bloc communist parties may have retained their monikers, but they lost their Stalinist foundations and became reformist when the means of production were privatized. Half a billion Russians and Eastern Bloc people only weakly protested privatization and the loss of their social safety nets.

> How many Democratic Socialist regimes have had to be
> overthrown by the strong arms of the US's might? Peru,
> Indonesia, Cuba... the list goes on and on and on.....

   We activists unfortunately don't have much control over foreign affairs.

> On one of my trips back from Canada, a few years ago, I ran into
> a young German man at the airport... He was touring some of the
> Canadian and US Industrial Plants because he was an engineer.. of
> some sort or other, but we started talking about the new forms of
> capitalism invading Germany's political, social and economic systems.
> He didn't care for it much. He told me about how everyone missed the
> closeness of community, and not many wanted profit to become the
> motive driving their life and their interest in activities. He said
> now there's too much greed in a few and too many struggles for the
> many. And I thought to myself, here is a young man, new to the
> possibilities of economic interaction, but with a solid education
> and the skills to provide for himself, probably by any standards
> well enough, and yet he still clings to his sense of community and
> misses it... He said many feel the same way.. maybe they do, maybe
> they don't, but depending on what system is put into place or taken
> away, isn't a reliable measure of what the people actually want
> in my opinion.

   The system can be brutal, no doubt. Figuring out what to do to fix it isn't easy, especially when so many plans abound, and so many plans conflict with other plans. It's easy to get lost in the fog.

>> Fire and sword revolutions are over and done with in the West.
>> Some dedicated revolutionary leaders know as well as I do that the
>>
socialist fire and sword revolution is dead, but don't want anyone
>> else to know, because a major goal of any movement is to develop
>> a dedicated following. But, as soon as people begin to think for
>> themselves, the
fire and sword revolution is kaput.
>
> I don't know about any
'fire and sword' revolutionary tactics,
> nor do I prescribe to any that I am aware of.

   Fire and sword tactics are most closely associated with overthrowing governments, and with forcibly expropriating the means of production.

>> When I googled 'left ideological divisions', I got back 46,100
>> web pages
.
>
> Yes, I can certainly believe
that... but then I don't
> acknowledge those divisions as
legitimate.

   Are the only legitimate ideologies the ones you acknowledge?

> Either you're for direct democratic decision making,
> a
stateless, classless society, common ownership to the
> means to production
which are geared towards satisfying
> human need in a use economy
or you're not. But you're not
> going to be an
A/S/C in my book of definitions unless
> you adhere to these principles and practice them.

   That looks like a decent set of principles. How to realize them has been open to debate for a long time, methods varying from one group to another. After the events of 1989, 'power and property' paths were discredited like never before. Did you notice the world-wide rush away from Stalinism, and towards social democracy?

>> while my 'comrade' didn't announce his. While riding back, I
>> asked him 'why not announce your affiliation', and he replied,
>> '
Those people are going to kill us!' And, I assumed that he meant
>> '
if they ever get to power',
>
> And that's exactly what they did when they did
get into power,
> they killed us. Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, et al;
not a one of
> them an
A/S/C...

   Murder can result any time the obsolete 'power and property' path to classless and stateless society is undertaken. Can Marx's mistake be recognized as such, and abandoned in favor of a more peaceful path?

>> One irreconcilable difference: Replacing existing states with
>>
communist workers' states vs. replacing existing states directly
>> with an anarchist classless and stateless
administration of things.
>
> Well, for me that's a no-brainer.. There are no '
states' in an
> ideology that claims
statelessness.. worker's or otherwise.

   In Marx's Marxism, statelessness was to be preceded by proletarian dictatorship, or an expropriatory workers' state. Marx only used "workers' state" twice, Engels never. Variations of 'proletarian dictatorship', or 'the (political) rule of the workers' appeared much more often. Let me know if you can accept the fact that 'M+E wanted to concentrate ownership of the means of production into the hands of the state', even if you don't embrace that particular program element. Resignation to that fact, and acceptance of what's chiseled in stone, and what is obviously in black and white, (even if it's a reluctant acceptance), would indicate a higher degree of maturity than what I've often bumped into on various forums.

>> No matter how hard a revolutionary might try, doing both at
>> the same time is impossible, so a difficult choice between
>> one or the other would have to be made.
>
> Not for me. For me there is no
difficult choice to be made.
> I think that
the state will wither away. And so will class
> divisions, along with the need for both.

   Classless and stateless society will be realized, of course. Statism or anti-statism is an issue only if contemplating overthrowing existing democracies and replacing them with workers' states, or directly with a classless and stateless administration of things, but those heroic days have come and gone forever.

 

05-20-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> Trevor and Rebecca and Robin and Ken; what first steps can we take?

   Rulers have power because people don't care much except to give them even MORE power, all of which power comes from surplus value. Reducing surplus value would be the smart thing to do.

 

05-23-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> O.k. Ken ...here goes a very partial reply;
>
>> Amending existing laws to create an artificial shortage
>> of labor
would accomplish the same thing as a general slow-
>> down strike
. For workers struggling in non-democracies, a
>>
syndicalist pact to stop working beyond a certain number
>> of hours per day or week
would be just as effective.
>
> And how would they compensate their incomes? Do they
fast
> as well? Do they
lose out on their monetary means, foregoing
> perhaps food in order to
act in solidarity? Some of those
> countries
labor forces don't even make enough to live from
> day to day.

   Shorter work hours are often mistakenly equated with self-deprivation, but it doesn't work that way, especially in the long run. Otherwise, Western workers would have SUFFERED from reducing their hours of labor by a third over the past century, if higher productivity hadn't MORE than compensated for the lost time. Fear of reducing hours will ensure that it won't be the first reform to be adopted to meet increasing demands for social justice.

> I am very cautious of reformism... I don't want to lose sight
> of the fact that we cannot forget to
challenge the underpinning
> assumptions in a capitalist system.. ie; wage slavery.

   The only place in the works of M+E in which a METHOD for abolishing wage slavery was ever SPECIFIED in easily understood terms was in Engels' 1880 article entitled "Trades Unions" (me24.387): ... "the struggle for high wages and short hours ... is ... a means ... towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether."

   What better way to abolish the wage system than to legislate fewer work hours, all the way until the work week is abolished? Think up a better way, and we'll kick it around.

> That is to say that I'm not going to take on this reform
> by thinking it to be something like this:
>
>
Eliminate dire poverty, and reduce forced labor
> time
and slavery becomes tolerable...

   I can sympathize. 'Veering off the revolutionary path' for what may seem like a piddling reform is not an attractive prospect. But, is a militant assault on surplus value purely yucky reformism? Certainly surplus value activism was good enough for Engels' 8-Hour League in the early 1890's, and Marx's daughter Jenny in 1880 revealed that Marx thought that IT IS revolutionary (me46.474):

   "As to the revolutionary side of the struggle for the limitation of the working day, he {Marx} thinks you have passed it over without notice in your answer to those revolutionists of the fire and sword. - From the Capital you will see that the fight of the English working class assumed more than once the character of a revolution, and that the governing classes only granted what they dared not refuse."

   Depending on the country and the circumstances, revolutions can take different shapes: In the bygone days of absolute monarchies, revolutions of the fire and sword were exactly what the doctor ordered. However, in modern democracies, where the fire and sword revolution became irrelevant, surplus value activism could work wonders. But, 'revolution' by means of reform? If it was good enough for Engels' 8-Hour League, then why isn't it good enough today? Destruction wreaked by fire and sword is self-explanatory, whereas surplus value activism is an order of magnitude more subtle.

> Demanding that the capital give me a larger portion from
> the fruits of my own laboring
, and insisting capital reduce
> the amount of time I must work
for that increase isn't going
> to lessen my outrage at being enslaved in the first place.

   It's true that the reform could not end wage-slavery in a single day, but what in the world could possibly provide that much instant gratification? Nothing I've ever heard of. Our labors unfortunately cannot end in the short run, no matter what the nature of the changes envisioned. No matter which economic system one finds oneself in, all workers are victims of scarcity, and all must find a task useful enough to entice compensation. It certainly does require human labor to provide food, clothing and shelter, but not for too many more years. The prospect of eventual liberation should inspire patience. Abject suffering need not result if our brains are put to good use. Ordinary exploitative capitalism COULD be converted into liberation capitalism, if enough of us so desire.

>> The book is "Secrets of American Communism". After communism
>> collapsed in Russia in 1991, American scholars were given access to
>> Russian files about the
CPUSA. The first volume (of a planned series)
>> was published in 1995, which I read over the air during some of my
>> weekly talk shows on
Free Radio Berkeley. The book is still eluding
>> my best efforts to find it, however.
>
> Thanks! I'll keep an eye open for that title. If I see it
> I'll try to read it ....

   Here's another self-correction: It's real title is "The Secret World of American Communism", and can be bought (used) for less than 10 bucks at:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/series/-/290/ref=pd_sr_ec_ser_b/104-3264781-0526342

   A very interesting title available on that same web page is: "Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War".

> Well.. like I said a very partial reply.. sigh.
>
> Take Care and
Peace, Rebecca

   Cheers. I hope you're beginning to appreciate the subtleties of surplus value activism vs. the crudities of the fire and sword variety. To really appreciate the horrors of the Great French Revolution, check out E. Belford Bax's book on it. Copies may still be available from the American SLP.

 

05-24-03

   Sorry to be so tardy, but I've had a big flurry of activity on a PUBLIC forum that has taken precedence over these private chats.

   McD1st quoted me:

>> 5% unemployment is NATIONAL POLICY. Greenspan juggles interest rates
>> to keep unemployment at 5%. Bosses like unemployment because intense
>> competition for jobs forces workers to accept low wages, which
>> translate into high profits.
>
> McD: It is not likely that the value of their income,
> their real wage, is less.

   Even so, 5% unemployment is an injustice to the many millions who cannot find work. Economies need to be made more inclusive. With so few people creating necessities nowadays, any developed country can certainly afford more compassion towards the jobless by making their economy more inclusive. To be fair to both workers and bosses, all developed countries should act in unison to even out differences in labor laws.

>> KE: Why bring up the irrelevant issue of population growth? Does a
>>
growing population automatically translate into an excellent economy?
>
> McD: It is relevant as it shows that
labour remains scarce in a way
> that makes that
fact stark.

   5 or 6% unemployment does not make for scarce labor. It means a GLUT of labor on the market - millions of people without work or wages. If, on the other hand, labor were really scarce, only then could further population growth stand a chance of making an iota of sense to a few uninformed individuals. Advocating population growth in today's milieu signifies uncritical acceptance of the bourgeois agenda. Capitalists NEED growth in order to absorb surpluses, IF government intent is to keep the millstone of needless toil around our necks. The logical alternative to wasteful bourgeois growth is more leisure and more freedom from wage slavery. Less human labor than ever is required to feed, house and clothe, so the Puritan work ethic should be abandoned in favor of leisure.

>> KE: One needn't be a rocket scientist to figure out that the
>> economy hasn't been doing very well for the past couple of
>> years, and that a meaningful response is conceivable.
>
> McD: I'm skeptical.
>
> But even if things were getting worse, it does not follow that
a
> meaningful response is called for
unless it be in innovations to
> make things better, e.g. a new gadget that people might like or
> some other contribution to the
standard of living.

   Innovations continue along at a double exponential rate whether the lowest classes prosper or starve. President Bush is seeking and getting billions to develop nanotechnology that promises to murder every bit of human physical labor, and it won't be long after that when embedded computers of enormous networked power solve all other problems.

>> KE: Smash the state? Replace the state with a classless and stateless
>>
administration of things? Or, replace it with a communist workers'
>> state
? Make the economy more inclusive?
>
> McD: A lot of that looks like romance.

   It is romantic, but a lot of misled romantic anarchists, socialists and communists still adhere to these power and property agendas. In democracies, power and property agendas from either the left or the right betray bourgeois consciousness, and pre-occupation with property concerns.

>> KE: Please tell us lost workers: What should we do?
>
> McD: The workers I meet do not seem lost.

   You are lucky to travel amongst the more fortunate.

>> KE: Count our blessings? Have lots of babies, and hope that
>> a proliferation of babies will save us?
>
> McD: Save us from what?

   You were the one to suggest that the population still has room for growth, whereas I don't see growth doing anything better than create new problems which take extra human labor to solve, thus perpetuating the need for many work hours.

> Falling real wages? I am skeptical that they
> are falling.
But if they are then it is not
> by all that much. Most have not noticed it.

   Falling wages have never been anywhere nearly as big an issue for me as the inadequate degree of participation in the economy.

>>> McD: ... there is no clash between
>>> a worker & the firm he works for.
>>
>> KE: Tell that to Michael 'Mucko' McDermott, and to all the other
>> workers who have '
gone postal'. Or to any union that's gone on
>>
strike. Are they the victims of self-delusion?
>
> McD: I think most of them are confused.

   So, you say most "are confused", but earlier said they "do not seem lost". Why the contradiction (?), unless there's a big difference between 'lost' and 'confused'?

> Most of them take no real interest in the union but
> now & again they
support a strike as they feel a need to
>
maintain the union owing to some half baked romance the
> shop steward tells them that he is usually too apathetic to
> have clearly thought out himself. Owen's outlook would soon
> wash all this away if the workers were exposed to it.

   I also respect Owen. Which aspects of his philosophy agree with you?

> It is not clear to me how self-delusion differs from delusion.
> Do you think
we can lie to ourselves?

   Absolutely. That was certainly true in my own case, as I discovered when I embarked on self-analysis back in the 1960's. What a web of self-deceit! It took lots of time to unravel.

>>> McD: When was starvation realistic in the USA or the UK for the average
>>> worker? Have you ever been anywhere near
it?
>>
>> KE: While living in California for awhile, I was disturbed to hear that
>>
one out of six California kids went to bed hungry every night. With only
>> 2% of the USA population growing the food
, it's obvious that the reason
>> for hunger is 100% political, and 0% economic, as opposed to the days
>> of yore when hunger was 100% economic.
American hunger could
>> be ended tomorrow if the political will existed, but the will doesn't
>> exist, just like the political will to
end unemployment doesn't exist.
>
> McD: Children do not eat in up to
one in every six? I'm skeptical.

   Check out http://www.feedingchildrenbetter.org/

   They say one out 5 kids all over the country go hungry. It's 100% a political problem. Neglect is official policy, just like unemployment. There's no excuse for hunger where only 2% feed the rest, proving that hunger is no longer the economic problem it used to be. Apathy on this issue may go back to the prevalence of the obsolete dictum of 'no work, no food', which comes from the bible. This dictum has been obsolete for ages, because hunger is increasingly political and less economic with the passage of time, and with improvements in productivity.

> In what way is that political, assuming it to be the case?
> Politics is
not very productive.

   It is political because, by using the ostensible excuse of 'keeping down taxes', governments neglect the poor, even though general interests militate against a hungry sector of the population. No one could possibly be proud of 'saving money by letting people go hungry', but hunger results from short-sighted politics, plus inadequate access to the economy.

> The unemployed might find a way of remaining so no matter what
>
measure is taken.

   Everyone knows that unemployment is NATIONAL POLICY. Greenspan jumps through hoops to keep unemployment hovering at 5%. Why can't this simple fact be accepted? If you disagree, then why not explain what causes unemployment, or do you think that the word doesn't belong in the dictionary?

>>> McD: I never have & I have never bothered to get out of the poorest
>>> section of the population, or at least not since my teens [looking
>>> back I suppose I did make some effort before I converted to
>>>
Marxism but I have not really bothered much since].
>>
>> KE: I considered myself a
Marxist from 1972-94. In '94, I discovered
>> that private property could be
expropriated without compensation only
>> after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies,
>
> McD: How did you think they maintained private property?

   I'm not sure if I understand why you asked that particular question, but, while we are here, maybe this will help: Marx repeated what his predecessors pointed out: 'Labor creates property', so property doesn't even really NEED a state to maintain it, because property is something that arises out of the economy, most any system of economy that produces surpluses. The greater the proportion of surplus value, the more resources the political state has with which to protect property, if need be. But, 'property based on force' was Duhring's mistake, which Engels refuted admirably.

>> KE: .....but never after communist parties won mere elections in the
>> advanced countries where
expropriation was expected to occur first,
>> demonstrating a fatal internal contradiction in
Marxism. By '95, I
>> became convinced of the feasibility of
abolishing capital and labor
>> by
driving down the length of the work week.
>
> McD: It is not clear how
shorter hours would get rid of capitalism
> as a system.

   The only concrete method for abolishing the wages system M+E ever divulged was in Engels' 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions" (me24.387): ... "the struggle for high wages and short hours ... is ... a means ... towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether."

   If the work week gets driven down to nothing, and nobody has to work for anyone else any more, then people are equal, and exploitation and value creation are at an end. Machines based on nanotech will make everything for free, and will fix and create themselves. Computers will be imbedded in everything (except maybe food), and will boast a collective networked intelligence far greater than human. We will learn the error of our ways and be guided onto higher paths. The struggle for existence will end, and all will be free to develop higher talents and realize higher ambitions than property careers.

>>> I never saw anything like the class struggle & I doubt if you ever
>>> have either.
Nor did Marx or Engels. They are like the Christians
>>> writing about their soul.
>>
>> KE: True, I never experienced
class struggle. But, Marx and
>> Engels did, and Engels was injured fighting in a military
>> battle to
democratize Germany.
>
> McD: Why should we accept that as
class struggle such as they held existed?

   Has absolutely NOTHING been mentioned in this dialogue about replacing feudal monarchies with bourgeois democratic republics, or with communist red republics? Don't they indicate class struggles for STATE POWER? Were there no political differences between merchants, landowners, capitalists, and laborers? {Snip the part of my rant that degenerated into self-contradiction.}

>> KE: Their experience of class struggle was largely political, as they
>> watched and participated in trying to
replace absolute monarchies
>> with democratic republics.
>
> McD: That hardly relates to what they claimed to be the
clashing
> economic interests of the workers & the employers
.

   You must think that the class struggle is purely economic, with no political content at all. In "Lawyer's Socialism", Engels wrote (me26.598): "The fact that the struggle of this new rising {capitalist} class against the feudal lords and the absolute monarchy, which then protected them, had to be, like any class struggle, a political struggle, a struggle for control over the State, and had to be waged for the sake of legal demands, helped to consolidate the legal world view."

   There Engels wrote: ... "had to be, like any class struggle, a political struggle, a struggle for control over the State".

   Class struggles cannot help but be political, as well as economic.

>> KE: Not just the plain old democratic republics of their
>> day, but
socially-controlled democratic republics
>> (enjoying
universal suffrage), aka red republics.
>
> McD: Yeah, but it does
not relate to what they claimed to be the
> basic fact of a
clash of economic interests. It is just romance.

   Perhaps Engels' Feuerbach essay will persuade (me26.391):

   "In modern history, at least it is, therefore, proved that all political struggles are class struggles, and all struggles by classes for emancipation, despite their necessarily political form - for every class struggle is a political struggle - turn ultimately on the question of economic emancipation. Therefore, here at least, the state - the political order - is the subordinate factor and civil society - the realm of economic relations - the decisive element."

   Clashes of economic interests (such as the length of the work week) manifest a POLITICAL component when fought out in the state, i.e., over hours of labor legislation, such as the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill of 1933.

>>>> KE: Conditions cry out for truly SOCIAL solutions.
>>>
>>> McD: Go on Ken, why do you think
that?
>>
>> KE: Because the economy is
evolving, and productivity booms
>> like never before.
>
> McD: Well, if that is so then haply
real wages are going up.
> Output determines
our income.

   Output doesn't ENTIRELY determine income, because, as prices of necessities decline (thanks to increasing productivity), wages can also decline without negatively affecting the standard of living. In fact, the standard of living can even INCREASE while wages decline, and while bosses take an increasing proportion of the product, which they use in an ever-proliferating number of ways, certainly not all of which are selfish or evil, by any means.

>> G.W. Bush 69,000 jobs *LOST* per month
>>
>> Scary enough to motivate considering a real unemployment solution?
>
> McD: You mean that mass unemployment in the USA is at
record levels?

   Not yet. It's only 6% using one rule, and 10% using a stricter government rule. Unemployment reached 25% at the height of the Great Depression.

> Any supposed solution to mass unemployment is worth consideration at any time.

   Agreed.

>> KE: According to Marx, surplus labor = surplus value = surplus product. They
>> are interchangeable economic categories. Maybe this will help: If workers
>> went home after creating the
value of their labor power (say after the first
>>
hour), then surplus labor would be absent, and just enough would be produced
>> to keep society on a never-ending treadmill: go to work every day, never
>> innovate.
Surplus value and surplus labor would be just as absent as surplus
>> product
(that gets converted into capital and profits). Life would be as
>> bare-bones as eons ago, when the human race lived a subsistence existence,
>> and
evolved at such an insignificant rate as to appear perfectly stagnant.
>
> McD: I took you to mean
lots of workers by "surplus labour".

   'Lots of workers' indicates 'the reserve army of the unemployed'. By 'surplus labor', I referred to a dynamically growing majority of the workforce, viz., those who create non-necessities, capital, profits, luxuries, R+D, the tax base, etc., anything but necessities.

>> As productivity improves even more, limits will have to become
>>
stricter, lest unemployment run wild. The robots ARE coming,
>> and in fact are arriving faster and faster.
>
> McD: They
cannot cause unemployment as they tend
> to rise productivity that boosts the viability of all wages
> thus creating marginal jobs that were earlier uneconomic.

   Robots are slated to become as smart as humans in a few years, in which case bosses will rather buy robots who can work 24/7 in harsh environments over renting humans who are far more demanding than robots will ever be. Humans demand wages, bathroom breaks, time off, holidays, vacations, health care plans, insurance, etc., things that robots will NEVER demand. Until robots get MUCH smarter, their relative stupidity will ensure at least some human employment for a few more years.

>> KE: This will mean worker lib in a scenario barely envisioned by Marx
>> in
Wage Labour and Capital (me9.226): "If the whole class of wage-workers
>> were to be abolished owing to machinery, how dreadful that would be for
>> capital which, without wage labour, ceases to be capital!
"
>
> McD: This was part of the
fanciful theory of Marx that capital
> needed more
fresh labour.

   Fanciful theory? But, capital very much DOES need fresh labor to keep the reserve army of the unemployed well stocked. As Marx wrote in Capital (me35.182): "The labour power withdrawn from the market by wear and tear and death, must be continually replaced by, at the very least, an equal amount of fresh labour power. Hence the sum of the means of subsistence necessary for the production of labour power must include the means necessary for the labourer's substitutes, i.e., his children, in order that this race of peculiar commodity owners may perpetuate its appearance in the market."

   What's so fanciful about that?

>> KE: If Marx could take the long view, then our long views should be so
>> much the better for having seen society evolve without adhering to Marx's
>> scenario of
violent proletarian revolution, which is dead as a doornail.
>
> McD: It is dead in the way that King Arthur is dead viz. it
never was alive.

   But, Marx's world-wide revolution NEARLY occurred in 1917, save for Europe and the USA not revolting en masse in support of Russia. Bolsheviks were a bit too optimistic in hoping Western workers would overthrow democracies for the sake of turning power and property over to revolutionaries who were more inclined to fight one another over whether to have a communist or an anarchist revolution. Failure of communist and anarchist revolutionaries to cooperate spelled doom for both communism and anarchism.

>> Re: free access communism: One mistake made by Marx and everyone
>> else is to regard
socialism or communism as happily compatible with the
>> era of labor
, but that is an oft-repeated big mistake. The purpose of the
>> capitalist system is to
abolish labor. Labor cannot be abolished without
>>
abolishing surplus labor, and surplus labor cannot exist without necessary
>> labor
as its foundation. Capitalism will continue on until the abolition
>> of labor
, so the system of autonomous machine production that follows
>> capitalism will not be based upon either
labor or capital. Socialism and
>>
labor prove to be logically antithetical. Do you get my point? If not,
>> then where does my reasoning break down?
>
> McD: I think you
over-estimate the ability of robots to take over.

   The robots of today are certainly unprepared to take over production, but what about the robots of the future? Would you say that 'tomorrow's robots won't be any smarter'? What about the robots of a decade ago: Were they smarter than those of today, dumber, or the same? What about the robots of the 1960's? Were they any smarter, dumber, or the same? Can you admit that machinery gets smarter with time? Or, are they always at the same level of stupidity, no better than the old grist mill? To say that 'robots won't be any smarter than they are today' would imply that 'they never evolved in the past.' Who could believe that?

> They will only ever boost output that will increase wage rates so
> that lower wages will become higher & thus more viable with the
> result that there will be
more jobs as a result. There is exactly no
> chance of
robots being able to do all the work as the work to be done
> in any national economy is infinite.
The whole world would not do
> all that needs to be done in just the British
National Health Service.
> You
seem to imagine that the work to be done is finite & thus that
>
soon robots can replace the workers but that is to badly
> misjudge
the extent of the economic problem.

   This was written before the interview with Kurzweil hopefully taught the inaccuracies of the 'intuitive linear view'. Do you still hold to that short-sighted 'intuitive linear view'?

   'The work to be done is infinite'? What about the work to create necessities: is that amount of work infinite?

   You mention an 'economic problem', but I can't remember you admitting of an economic problem before now. How would you define that 'economic problem', and what would you do to fix it?

>>> McD: I became an eccentric one in being against democracy
>>> as a
menace to the public.
>>
>> KE:
Menace?
>
> McD: Yes. People
hate democracy.

   But, people love democracy. Marx loved it. People killed and died to create it, and still do the same to defend it.

> It took Michels to get me to see this.
> It is a
dogma & a fetish.

   I hope that inner-party democracy isn't being confused with governmental democracy. Modern party agendas dealing primarily with power and property are bourgeois, no matter how far to the left they may appear, so inner-party democracy can really suffer in such a milieu. A real workers' party, on the other hand, would primarily be concerned with unemployment. The fact that the USA doesn't have a party primarily concerned with unemployment proves that unemployment just isn't much of a problem yet, and may never become a problem if the Democrats and Republicans respond compassionately.

>> KE: Proletarian PARTY democracy may have been a sham, even during
>> the days of M+E, but they never ceased advocating democracy with
>>
universal suffrage. Proletarian dictatorship WITHOUT universal
>> suffrage
and democracy was inconceivable to them.
>
> McD: Yes, but the masses always rejected their ideas & there
> is no reason why we should think that will ever alter. People hate
> committees that take minutes but waste hours. Democracy bores them.

   The nice part about the robots abolishing human labor is that the state can then be consigned to the museum of antiquities, along with private property, money, and all the other things we love to hate. Gone also will be formal democracy, legislatures, Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc.

>>> McD: How do you feel the wages system is unjust?
>>
>> KE: Exclusion of workers from the
legal economy is unjust, because
>> exclusion results from
policy created and maintained for the purpose
>> of forcing desperate millions to accept low wages, which translates
>> into high profits.
>
> McD: Low wages do
not mean high profits.

   Low wages translate into high profits, and vice versa. Marx wrote in Volume 3 of Capital (me37.244): ... "a high rate of profit is possible when the working day is very long, although labour is not productive. It is possible, because the wants of the labourers are very small, hence average wages very low, although the labour itself is unproductive. The low wages will correspond to the labourer's lack of energy. Capital then accumulates slowly, in spite of the high rate of profit. Population is stagnant and the working time which the product costs, is great, while the wages paid to the labourer are small."

> Toilet addenders get paid little but toilets
> hardly make big profits whereas projects
> that do usually pay quite high wages.

   Can't argue with that.

>>> Do you agree that we could all go self employed & thus end
>>> capitalism as Marx had it?
>>
>> KE: No, because
mass self-employment would be here today if it were a more
>> efficient means of production.
Mass self-employment would not work well at
>> all for the production of commodities like pencils and light bulbs.
>
> McD: Workers simply have not bothered to set up for themselves but the
> ones that have done so generally earn more & are quite well off. Soon
> others might find the confidence to follow their example.

   I'm certainly not against self-employment by any means. I've done it myself, and did better then than while working for wages. But, where's the incentive for anyone to go in for it, if, as you say, 'workers already get the full value of what they produce'?

>>> Why do you think his surplus value is real?
>>
>> KE: The division of the product of labor between owners and workers
>> is very real, is it not?
>
> McD:
No. Most production is mass production for the masses.
> Most of the product goes to the masses.

   One popular statistic of a decade ago was that 'the upper 20% get 80% of what's produced, while the lower 80% only get 20%.' The United Electrical Workers Union claimed that 'the upper 10% get 90% of what's produced, while the lower 90% get only 10%.' Take your pick.

>> KE: After all, workers race to the bottom, while bosses get lifted
>> to the top. Or, are Bill Gates' billions a mere illusion?
>
> McD: Gates got his money from supplying things the people wanted & he thereby
> enriched the masses. More people have PCs as a result of what he did.
>
> The bottom keeps getting richer.

   The bottom may very well keep getting richer, but the top gets richer at a much faster rate. People have noticed that, and have often written about it.

>>> McD: I am not clear on what you see as the problem? Please do say more.
>>
>> KE: To me, chronic unemployment and the resulting competition for scarce
>> jobs, and the forced acceptance of lousy wages, and consequent
low standards
>> of living
, are all very real problems. If you can't agree that problems
>> exist
, then you probably never go to the wrong parts of town.
>
> McD: But wages have gone ever upward in real terms owing to the productivity
> you cited earlier on. It is output that makes for income.

   Repeating the truism that real wages have gone up, which I agree with, unfortunately doesn't make unemployment disappear. Many would-be American workers don't have jobs or wages, and some concerned Americans recently went on a March Against Hunger. Are they simply deluded? Is everyone really healthy, happy, and well-employed? Is all of the photographic evidence to the contrary simply the result of digital forgery?

 

05-25-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> The first step in your scheme would have to be
> the elimination of
hourly wage rates.

   Hourly, salary, or piece work, human labor will be abolished, regardless of the classification, and in no particular order.

> It was done with elimination of piece rates by legislation,
> so why not with
hours, too?

   The Internet didn't reveal any info regarding 'elimination of piece rates'. Did I not look in the right place?

> Otherwise, the reduction does indeed lead to deprivation.

   Reducing work hours was the main demand of the labor movement from the beginning. Labor wouldn't have advocated anything self-destructive.

> As it stands now, in America at least, the switch to
>
salary from hourly wage leads to LONGER hours of
> work
. Why is this so?

   That trend seems to be so, especially for full timers. Some Labor Department rules must have been rewritten, I would imagine. In a message to another correspondent, I quoted some May BLS statistics:

   "The average workweek for production or nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.3 hour in April to 34.0 hours, seasonally adjusted. The manufacturing workweek also declined by 0.3 hour to 40.5 hours. Manufacturing overtime was down by 0.1 hour to 3.9 hours. ... Over the year, average hourly earnings increased by 3.1 percent and average weekly earnings grew by 2.5 percent."

   Their last sentence looks very optimistic. Those average earnings must have included some pretty high level salaries in order to increase that much.

> Why is the trend towards more work and not less
> in the USA? How can this be
resisted? What is
> its origin?

   Since the 1960's, full timers get more work, but average hours of labor for the workforce as a whole have been declining, down to 34 hours per week, due to a dramatic rise in part time labor. To resist, issues need to be fully understood, and a political movement arise.

> The provision of healthcare in the USA is tied
> to employment, too, and it is denied to
part-time
> workers.
Full-time workers are increasingly required
> to work
overtime. Overtime legislation is currently
> being overhauled in favor of forcing
longer hours...
>
> Just a reality check...
>
> John

   Once the smarter robots take over the remaining work with a vengeance, and unemployment really starts to climb, then sharing the vanishing work will be more popular. Robots are still pretty dumb critters, unable to think for themselves very well. That will soon change. They get smarter all the time.

 

05-26-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> The prohibition of piece-work in America is one of those things
> that I've absorbed from the culture without attribution.

   Googling for 'piecework eliminate automation' substantiated the impression that piecework is definitely on the decline. The kinds of repetitive tasks associated with piecework are being 'done in' by advances in automation, and by teamwork replacing individual efforts. It appears as though piecework doesn't need to be outright banned by law; it's being replaced in practice with new methods. Not many workers will miss the tyranny of piecework.

 

05-26-03

   McD1st and DRS wrote:

> DRS: We are in a recession (or, if you believe some people, have just come
> out of a
recession). This is a temporary phenomenon of a year or two. Leaving
> aside exactly what has happened to pay in the past few years, what is KE's
> argument? If, during the rare and occasional periods where (it can be
> argued),
overall pay is falling, this demonstrates that the workers have
> interests opposed to the capitalists
, what is demonstrated by the much
> lengthier periods where (all analysts agree),
real wages are going up?
> Wouldn't this show equally that
workers and capitalists have the same
> interests
? This consideration is underscored by the following fact: there
> have been
huge investor losses over the past few years, that is, people who
> have held stocks (now
more than fifty percent of the US population), have seen
> the
value of their holdings drop very dramatically. So, since periods when
> there are big losses to investors coincide with (or immediately precede)
> periods when unemployment rises and (arguably) wages fall, doesn't this go
> to show that
workers and investors ("capitalists") have a common interest?

   I agree that workers and bosses have many economic interests in common, especially the more highly paid workers who become indistinguishable (in attitude) from bosses. It's the ones on the bottom I worry about - the non-workers, and the part timers. They suffer from inadequate access to the legal economy, and often have to partake of the gray economy, or even the underground. The number of pathetic bank robberies attempted by pure incompetents is on the rise. They obviously know better, but become desperados.

> There is no dispute at all among people who look at national income
> statistics
that real incomes have grown substantially over any long
> period such as ten years, for centuries past. Real incomes today are
> several times higher than they were fifty years ago, and working
> hours are shorter.

   Average weekly hours for the whole work force is down to 34, but full timers have been putting in more and more hours since the 1960's. This is the disparity I'm most concerned with: some having more than enough work or too much, and others having none or not enough.

> I am not making light of slumps. We can discuss separately what causes
>
slumps and what to do about it. But slumps are, as a matter of plain
> historical fact,
rare and brief. Overwhelmingly, capitalism booms.
>
Productivity rises and so do real incomes.

   I agree with this, and it corresponds with a lot of what Kurzweil says. DRS might enjoy the Kurzweil interview I sent off to McD on May 11. {While colorizing this message, I realized that recessions have been frequent, and can often last for years. The current recession has lasted 3 years already.}

>> KE: Actually, Marx never used "the bosses" as an exact phrase.
>> Engels used that exact phrase only 4 times.
>
> DRS: Marx mainly wrote in German and there are several places where
> it would not be a wrong translation to put "
boss". "Boss" is a pretty good
> translation for French "
patron". I can't recall now whether Marx ever used
> "
patron" when he wrote in French (Misere de la Philosophie, 18th Brumaire
> de Louis Napoleon
), but it wouldn't surprise me if he had done.

   "Patron" appears a total of 65 times on the English CD of the Collected Works, and was used primarily to refer to benefactors and patron saints. Patron* (with any suffix) appears 230 times. Not once did patron refer to a boss, but, this is the English edition, after all. An Internet French dictionary equated patron with employer, with no other options.

>> KE: Tell that to Michael 'Mucko' McDermott, and to all the other
>> workers who have '
gone postal'. Or to any union that's gone on
>>
strike. Are they the victims of self-delusion?
>
> DRS:
Strikes may sometimes benefit some groups of workers at the
>
expense of other groups of workers, so it's not necessarily delusion
> here. It is certainly
anti-working-class.

   Strikes have been part of the economic landscape for a couple of centuries, and have often resulted in improved wages and working conditions. I wonder how it could possibly be concluded that the victories of some workers were obtained at the expense of other workers. It would rather seem that the victories of some workers boosted the average level of wages and working conditions. After all, we do admit of the tremendous PROGRESS that has occurred, which means that strikers did other workers no harm.

>> KE: Is 'adjustment of income' the solution?
>
> McD: To
falling wages?
>
> DRS: If there is a
slump, falling wages will be an alternative
> to growing unemployment.

   The reduction in wages is often accompanied by a {temporary} reduction in hours, which evens things out. Here are a few Bureau of Labor Statistics May figures:

   "The average workweek for production or nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.3 hour in April to 34.0 hours, seasonally adjusted. The manufacturing workweek also declined by 0.3 hour to 40.5 hours. Manufacturing overtime was down by 0.1 hour to 3.9 hours. ... Over the year, average hourly earnings increased by 3.1 percent and average weekly earnings grew by 2.5 percent."

   Their last sentence looks very optimistic. It must include some pretty high level salaries, because it's widely acknowledged that the workers on the bottom have lost during this recession.

>> KE: While living in California for awhile, I was disturbed to hear that
>>
one out of six California kids went to bed hungry every night.
>
> DRS: A comparatively few low-income people are having most of the babies.
> Even so, I am skeptical of
this claim.

   The last message to McD includes statistics from a group claiming 'one out of five'. Lots of stuff has been written about 'hunger in America', so it should be a settled fact with reasonable people.

> And what precisely does it mean? What often happens with legendary
>
statistics like this is that some research will show that one in six children
> don't get adequate nutrition
, i.e. their parents let them stuff themselves with
> potato chips and soda. Then some journalist, trying, as journalists will, to
> make these
dry statistics vivid to readers or viewers, paraphrases it as
>
"one in six going short of adequate food". This becomes "one in six hungry",
> and this gets turned into the more evocative "
one in six going to bed hungry
> every night
". I have seen this process of legend-generation several times
> in looking at
statistics about third world hunger, so it wouldn't
> surprise me if something similar was going on here.

   Hunger should not be denied the way revolutionaries deny people's love for democracy. Many revolutionaries mistakenly claim that 'our capitalist dictatorship is as worthy of overthrow as any old monarchy.'

> Most young kids in California are Mexican or Mexican-American. There is
> plenty of evidence that
Mexicans who migrate to the US do better in every
> way, including adequate food, than when they were in Mexico. The main
> dietary problem of the lowest-income groups in the US is obesity, and
> obesity-related problems like diabetes.

   Can't argue with that.

>> KE: With only 2% of the USA population growing the food, it's obvious that
>> the reason for hunger is 100% political, and 0% economic, as opposed to the
>> days of yore when hunger was 100% economic. American hunger could be
>> ended tomorrow if the political will existed, but the will doesn't exist,
>> just like the political will to
end unemployment doesn't exist.
>
> DRS:
Welfare reform has greatly reduced unemployment. If you make it harder
> to stay on welfare, you discourage people from remaining unemployed.

   Yes to the second sentence, but many have had their social safety nets removed by welfare 'reform', and are forced to eke out a living in the underground or gray economy. Welfare reform should have resulted in rosier unemployment figures, but it remains stuck at 5 or 6%. Welfare reform on your side of the pond might have lowered unemployment, but not over here.

> DRS: Capitalism delivers steadily shortening working hours
> without
legislation.

   As the figures indicate, this is true, but the full timers get more work, and the poor get less, which augments the gap between 'rich' and poor.

>>>> KE: Engels was injured fighting in a military battle
>>>> to
democratize Germany.
>>>
>>> McD: Why should we accept that as
class struggle such as they held existed?
>>
>> KE: Their experience of
class struggle was largely political,
>> as they watched and participated in trying to
replace absolute
>> monarchies with democratic republics
.
>
> DRS: They were involved in political agitation, which we might
> romantically term "
struggles", but to characterize this as "class
> struggle
" involves acceptance of a certain theory of class and
> of politics.

   People who can employ others obviously have a different relation to the means of production than a poor worker owning only a capacity to work. Likewise with the feudal baron who owned the land tilled by the serf, and who had the power to exact a tribute. These are real class differences.

>> KE: Because the economy is evolving, and productivity booms
>> like never before.
>
> DRS: Measured productivity rises when unemployment does, because
> the marginal workers are laid off, and output doesn't fall in proportion
> to the reduction in the workforce. But over a long period, there is a
>
steady growth in productivity and therefore in real wages.

   On the average, that's undeniable, but the economy could be made much more inclusive. In fact, making the economy fully inclusive was the purpose of socialism, as Engels explained in his 1877 Marx bio (me24.193):

   ... "the productive forces of society, which have outgrown the control of the bourgeoisie, are only waiting for the associated proletariat to take possession of them in order to bring about a state of things in which every member of society will be enabled to participate not only in production but also in the distribution and administration of social wealth, and which so increases the productive forces of society and their yield by planned operation of the whole of production that the satisfaction of all reasonable needs will be assured to everyone in an ever-increasing measure."

   No credible person could be against full participation, because that kind of opposition would fly in the face of humanitarianism. If anything needs to be opposed, it's some of the old 'power and property' methods (such as expropriation) that raise so many hackles as to render it unfeasible. The labor time reduction method used by liberation capitalism is clearly superior to expropriation as a means of {achieving} social justice, but no socialist revolutionary is honest enough to agree.

   Overall, DRS unfortunately mixes in a lot of denial with his better observations.

 

05-26-03

   In GreenAllianceUSA, WSheasby wrote:

> The supreme arrogance of the anti-socialist crowing on this list ...

   Aren't anti-socialists allowed to gloat just a little? After all, Marxist expropriation suffered a severe blow in 1917, when Europe and the USA failed to overthrow their democracies in support of the Bolshevik revolution. People were not about to turn power and property over to revolutionaries who could never decide whether to have an anarchist or a communist revolution.

   A more decisive blow to expropriation was delivered after 1989, when half a billion Russians and Eastern Bloc people failed to prevent re-privatization and democratization. Expropriation is truly dead in the modern world, and deserves a decent burial.

 

05-26-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> The point that we should both be making is the linkage between either
>
HOURS or PIECES to COMPENSATION. Certain democracies in the world
> have
MINIMUM INCOME legislation to allow survival without the need
> to prostitute oneself to owners of capital.

   Basic Income would be a big step forward in the USA.

> Piece work or hourly work are both methods of linking one's ability
> to acquire the necessities of life to the manner in which one lives
> one's life. De-linkage of
piece work or hours spent in confinement
> in an office or factory is essential to keep the ability to acquire
> the necessities of life after reduction in the demands of
pieces or
>
hours. Get it? At present, production = survival. Less production
> = less means.

   Fewer hours, or less production, would mean fewer necessities only if ALL production went into creating the necessities of life. But, with the passage of time, and with increasing productivity of labor, less and less time goes into the production of necessities, and a rapidly expanding amount of time goes into the production of non-necessities. If hours of labor were reduced, production of necessities would not be cut back, only production of non-necessities would be cut back. Why? Because the necessities of life are common to all, without which we cannot live, so necessities would not be cut back at all. On the other hand, non-necessities are not necessary to life, so a reduction in hours would only result in a cut back in production of non-necessities.

   Here's what would happen in concrete terms, in a simplified example: Suppose 10 million people create food products, but tomorrow work hours were cut in half. Ohmigod! That means only half the food would get delivered to our tables! But, a country that was smart enough to reduce hours would also be smart enough to transfer people power to where it is needed, so 10 million people would be transferred out of production of non-necessities, and transferred into the production of food, and the agri-work force would go from 10 million people up to 20 million, thus staving off the threat of mass starvation.

   That very process has been at work for the past couple of centuries. 200 years ago, 80% of the population worked the land. Nowadays, only 2% work the land. We'd all be starving today, except that improvements in productivity of agri-labor has more than made up the difference, and more foods in greater quantities and greater diversities are available today.

 

   {Note: In some of the following messages, the names of some participants have been changed to X and Y because of the rather extreme threats of censorship in the GreenAllianceUSA forum.}

05-26-03

Hi, X,

   I tried this afternoon to deliver a follow-up message to Green Alliance, but I seem to have been summarily dismissed from the group! I reapplied for membership, so we'll see what happens in a few days. I'll keep you informed, and if I don't get readmitted, I'll let you know. Perhaps you could raise it as an issue, unless the threat of retaliating and censoring YOU TOO is deemed too likely. This incident would make about the fourth or fifth time this has happened to me. Oy!

 

05-26-03

Hi, X,

   I very quickly received the following message:

> Hello,
>
> The moderator of the GreenAllianceUSA group has denied
> your request for membership.
>
> The moderator of each Yahoo! Groups group chooses whether to
> restrict membership in his or her group. Moderators who
> choose to restrict membership also choose whom to admit.
>
> Please note that this decision is final and that Yahoo! Groups
> does not control group membership.
>
> If you would like to create a new group at Yahoo! Groups
> please visit:
>
> http://groups.yahoo.com/start
>
> Thank you for choosing Yahoo! Groups as your email group service.
>
> Regards,
>
> Yahoo! Groups Customer Care

   So, I guess that the decision is final. My trouble-making days are apparently over at that forum. Any rabble rousing you care to do would be greatly respected. Keep me informed of the action. :-)

 

05-27-03

Hi, X,

   In the meantime, I received a message from Sheasby, somewhat explaining his decision. Because his perspective on my history was so distorted, I replied, and hope he will change his mind about my expulsion.

   X wrote:

> What else is new? The Stalinoid left is at work.

   That's what I suspect, in which case I might have a better chance than if they were anarchists, but there may not be much difference between those 2 currents these days.

> I might go to bat for you, but I would just as soon keep my
> membership for the time being. Somehow, miraculously (?),
> I managed to stay in the group all these months, and after
> posting many provocative items. Right now I am in
> silent/lurk mode, however.

   That's fine. That I can understand. We'll just wait and see what happens. In the meantime, I haven't had any problems with the other Green forum.

> By the way, another guy just got booted, and Walt explained that
> it was because he said
he was no longer a Green (i.e. not a member
> of the
GP, presumably). Funny, but I -- like Ralph Nader -- have
> never been a member of the
GP, and yet I post to GAUSA. I would
> prefer if you did not mention this, however. I would just as soon
> keep my membership as I enjoy reading some of the posts in
> the daily digests.
>
> X

   No problem. This will remain strictly between us and Y, who expressed sympathy today.

> If you want to protest, write to the moderators other than
> the head
Stalinist, Walt Sheasby (decent people, these):
> Marc
...
> John S
. ...
> Starlene R
. ...
>
> X

   Thanks for that tip. I might refer to them if nothing happens during the next couple of days. I logged off yahoo and tried the old trick of reading their messages incognito, but it didn't work, for their system forces me to log in, after which access is denied. Oh, well.

   Thanks again for the tip and the info.

 

05-27-03

   Y wrote:

> Aaarrrggh! More Stalinist insanity.
>
> I have posted nothing since being reinstated. I fear that opening my mouth
> even once would get me dismissed immediately. (The wonder is that I have
> not been dismissed simply on the basis of my posts to
greensUSA. Please
> don't mention that either, Ken. )
>
> Warm regards to you both,
>
> Y

   Thanks for your kind words, Y. Don't worry, I won't 'turn you in'. It appears as though Sheasby has found a neat way to terrorize people. These are sad times.

 

05-27-03

   WSheasby wrote:

> (Ken Ellis) writes:
>> < *Aren't anti-socialists allowed to gloat just a little?* >
>
> Dear Kenneth-
> On the
Green Alliance list there are limits that we all must live with.
> Even though you may feel that
ex-socialists have a right to gloat and
> bask in their latter-day anti-socialism
, this list is intended for
> other purposes and for a limited range of subscribers.
>
> The
GreenAllianceUSA listserv is for Green Party members who:
>
(1) agree with the mission of the Green Alliance to "promote radical social,
> ecological, and economic democracy as a solution to capitalism's exploitation
> and ecological destruction"; and
> (2) are actively involved in a local Green Party chapter or in a movement
> organization that is working to "promote radical social, ecological, and
> economic democracy as a solution to capitalism's exploitation and
> ecological destruction." (Adopted 3/23/03)

   I am definitely in tune with number one. Number 2 doesn't exclude me either, for I am involved with 'Take Back Your Time Day', scheduled for this coming Oct. 24. Full participation in the economy is definitely compatible with economic democracy, and is eco friendly.

> Apparently, judging from your website called Liberation Capitalism, you have
> had the experience of
not being fully heard before. As you recount about your
> strained involvement with the
Socialist Labor Party, *I wrote a long analysis
> and a resolution
...ensuring that its disposition would decide whether I
> remained with the Party, or leave it
.... I had pre-determined to quit if they
> decided to ignore the fruit of my labors. At that fateful
Section meeting some
> 3 months into '77, the
Section decided not to discuss what I had written, so I
> simultaneously quit the
NO and the Party in April.*
>
> One of your erstwhile comrades had written: *
To satisfy Ken Ellis' constant
>
complaints his comrades turned over the study group to a discussion of
> his ideas and opinions on the left-wing lies of the SLP. That discussion
> lasted for a
year. At the end of the year Ken having failed "to present any
> coherent political position"
(organizer's words) the other members of
> the section voted unanimously to move on to another topic of discussion,
> Ken's vote being the only one opposed. Ken's response was that
the SLP
> was un-democratic
and he walked out never to return. Ken's conception
> of democracy is a place where
his ideas are always in the front.*

   Can an unscrupulous political enemy be expected to portray events true to life? Especially when the party has a history of lying to the public, and is totally apathetic about its own lies? They erroneously claimed that 'The dictatorship of the proletariat was a dictatorship over the peasantry and middle classes, and for THAT reason the dictatorship is not needed in the USA, where a peasantry barely exists, and the middle class is weak.' They also erroneously claimed that 'Engels didn't know the difference between socialism and state capitalism.' When I patiently tried to show them the errors of their ways, they consistently refused to listen, forcing me to quit out of total frustration. I wanted any revolution with which I was associated to be an HONEST revolution. Was that asking too much?

> Your comrade had raised a rather appropriate question. *I do
>
not really understand how Ken plans to bring about his Zero-Hour
> work week by devoting all of his time to constant attacks on a few
> hundred revolutionaries whom he believes are
insignificant.*

   His statement contains inaccuracies. I promote shorter work hours, not a zero-hour work week. Plus, I don't do ad hominems. I only attack bad ideas. I've had more support behaving like a gentleman than what could ever be expected by being abusive. You won't catch me behaving like a boor.

> The Green Alliance has a number of pressing tasks for Greens to take up,
> and this
list is not designed as a forum for everyone with a clever idea. But
> subscribers are only removed from the
list when they have demonstrated
> their
disagreement with the mission of the Green Alliance to "promote
> radical social, ecological, and economic democracy as a solution to
> capitalism's exploitation and ecological destruction
".

   Marx thought that the struggle for a shorter work week was worthwhile, for it was what workers actually did in order to win a modicum of social justice. That struggle is not incompatible with Green philosophy. Preventing Marx's 'anti-surplus value' agenda from competing with his 'power and property' agenda in a free marketplace of ideas would be nothing less than tragic, given the recent blows to the power and property path, and its loss of popularity. Social progress would be fostered if Marx's 2 agendas could be compared in public.

> Those who are not interested in this mission of the Green Alliance, and
> instead would like to pursue
Liberation Capitalism can read more at:
>
http://www.libcap.net/index.html

   It never was 'liberation capitalism VS. Green philosophy. Green philosophy and liberation capitalism are not at loggerheads, unless Green philosophy is intended to be realized exclusively by 'power and property' methodology.

   I hope that your decision regarding my participation will be reconsidered.

 

05-27-03

   Y wrote:

> Hi, Ken.
>
> I disliked and distrusted Walt from the time I joined the group and read a few
> week's worth of messages to get the lay of the land.
Autocrat was one of the
> first words I applied to him. I called him
that in an e-mail to X. I'm sure
> X remembers well.
>
> Who will save us from the
autocrats who pretend to be our saviors?
>
> Sad times indeed, Ken.
>
> Warm regards,
>
> Y

Hi, Y,

   Walt has little appreciation of the damage done by censorship. What follows is a copy of my reply to notification of his decision:

   Snip repeat of previous message.

 

05-28-03

   Y wrote:

> How utterly ironic, Ken, that the autocratic Walt quotes to you the words of
> your political enemy that "
democracy is a place where his [Ken's] ideas are
> always in the front.
" That is IMO precisely Walt's concept of democracy.
>
> Warm regards,
>
> Y

   Hey, that's a good one, Y. Thanks for picking up on it.

   As of this writing, no word from Sheasby. He's probably happy with his decision, which can only damage his own cause, whatever that might be.

   Revolutionaries offer less freedom of speech than the very governments they are pledged to overthrow, which can't help but discredit them. The repression offered by our revolutionary saviors is less attractive than the repression we already suffer from, keeping revolutionaries marginalized.

   At least we have the GreensUSA forum, which seems more reasonable.

   I'll keep you and X informed if there's any change.

 

05-29-03

   McD1st quoted statistics:

>> G.W. Bush 69,000 jobs *LOST* per month
>>
>> "
This compilation, annotated with a brief explanation
>> of the reason for job growth and losses in each
>> administration, is presented in more detail in a
>> slide show entitled: "Jobs: Worth Fighting For."
>> To view the slide show, go to the Oregon AFL-CIO
>> web site at www.oraflcio.unions-america.com.
"
>>
>> Scary enough to motivate considering a real unemployment solution?
>
> DRS: Surely something is
wrong with these numbers.

   Like what?

> Presumably they refer to net job creation, which would
> strongly tend to be rising when unemployment is falling
> and falling when unemployment is rising.

   That's true, so we've had net losses since Bush got inaugurated, and unemployment went from 4% to 6% in 3 years. Job losses and rising unemployment logically correspond to one another. What's wrong with that observation?

> The figures for US unemployment are easily available (e.g. from the Bureau
> of Labor Statistics
, at www.bls.gov). Here are recent turning points:
>
>
Unemployment came down to 5.8 percent (then considered quite low) in 1979.
> It rose to 9.7 percent in 1982. It fell to 5.3 percent in 1989. It rose to 7.5
> percent in 1992. It fell to
(the amazingly low) 4.0 percent in 2000.
> It then rose to 5.8 percent in 2002. The latest figure, for March
> 2003, is also 5.8 percent.

>
> I haven't got time right now to figure out where these
union people made
>
their mistake, if they did. I don't doubt that there have been net job
> losses recently
, but there should also have been net job losses
> several times before.

   Why doubt the obvious? Job losses are a very logical way to account for rising unemployment.

> It's also worth being cautious because with all the preceding presidents as
> listed (except Kennedy) we're looking at full four-year terms, whereas with
> G.W. Bush we're looking at only half a term, a little over two years, and for at
> least the first year of that, we
have to attribute more impact on the economy
> to Clinton than to GWB. GWB was elected just as the recession began,
> and took office three months later when it was well under way.

   It doesn't matter to whom the unemployment can be attributed. Bush bashing doesn't get us any closer to social justice. Rising unemployment adds to the already insufficient degree of participation in the economy, so unemployment is the enemy, not Bush, unless he wants to proudly take credit for the rise in unemployment, which I doubt he would want to do.

>> KE: Many part-time jobs may exist, but even a BUNCH of lousy jobs at
>> minimum wage aren't enough to provide a living, nor enable low-wagers
>> to pursue the
great American dream.
>
> DRS: It's a shame that some people can only get low wages. However,
> the real incomes of the lowest quintile (the poorest fifth) of the US
> population have continued to rise long term. Low wages of today
> would have been considered high wages fifty years ago.

   Agreed.

>>>> KE: If, on the other hand, cutting hours were to become the next
>>>> popular fad, the
work week could be easily cut in half while still
>>>> not cutting into necessities, though lots of non-necessary production
>>>> would certainly be diminished, such as the willingness to jump into
>>>>
war, advertising, speculation, high-tech research, etc.
>
> DRS: How would
legislative reductions in hours lead to less
>
warlike behavior?

   Ability to go to war comes directly out of surplus value. Reduce surplus value, and the ability to go to war is likewise reduced.

>> KE: According to Marx, surplus labor = surplus value = surplus product. They
>> are interchangeable economic categories. Maybe this will help: If workers
>> went home after creating the
value of their labor power (say after the first
>>
hour), then surplus labor would be absent, and just enough would be produced
>> to keep society on a never-ending treadmill: go to work every day, never
>> innovate.
Surplus value and surplus labor would be just as absent as surplus
>> product
(that gets converted into capital and profits). Life would be as
>> bare-bones as eons ago, when the human race lived a subsistence existence,
>> and
evolved at such an insignificant rate as to appear perfectly stagnant.
>
> DRS: No, "
society" would collapse, because the value of equipment
> used up would
not be replaced.

   Not really, since Marx spoke of (34.363) "the part of the constant capital which enters into the value of the total product merely as depreciation", so depreciation is fully accounted for in constant capital, not surplus value. Marx also wrote (me32.185): "A part of the variable capital is converted into constant capital." Marx often spoke of the conversion of one or another form of capital into a different form (for various purposes).

>> KE: Labor was scarce in the infancy of capitalism, and bosses won
>>
legislation to force long hours out of them. Now that labor is a glut
>> on the
market, laws reversed to LIMIT the length of the work day and
>> week.
As productivity improves even more, limits will have to become
>>
stricter, lest unemployment run wild. The robots ARE coming, and in
>> fact are arriving faster and faster.
>
> DRS: This is the
reverse of the truth. In the early days, people fled
> from the grinding poverty of the pre-capitalist agrarian society, into the
> new capitalist cities. The Irish into Manchester and London, for instance.
> This, of course,
pushed wages down and lengthened working hours.

   'Reverse of the truth'? Not according to Engels' review of Capital (me20.254): "The determination of the normal working day is the result of many centuries of struggle between employer and labourer. And it is curious to observe the two opposing currents in this struggle. At first, the laws have for their end to compel the labourers to work longer hours; from the first statute of labourers 23rd Edward III (1349) up to the eighteenth century, the ruling classes never succeeded in extorting from the labourer the full amount of possible labour. But with the introduction of steam and modern machinery, the tables were turned. So rapidly did the introduction of the labour of women and children break down all traditional bounds to working hours, that the nineteenth century began with a system of overworking which is unparalleled in the history of the world, and which, as early as 1803, compelled the legislation to enact limitations of working hours."

   Here's an excerpt of a report of a speech by Marx to the General Council of the First International (me21.382): "He said what strikes us most is that all the consequences which were expected as the inevitable result of machinery have been reversed. Instead of diminishing the hours of labour, the working day was prolonged to sixteen and eighteen hours. Formerly, the normal working day was ten hours, during the last century the hours of labour were increased by law here as well as on the Continent. The whole of the trade legislation of the last century turns upon compelling the working people by law to work longer hours. It was not until 1833 that the hours of labour for children were limited to twelve."

> Now that the third world is being rapidly industrialized, and human
> fertility is collapsing everywhere, there is
growing scarcity of labor
> in relation to capital.

   Just because s is growing much larger than v does not mean that v is in demand. With automation, a little bit of v can wield a lot of c and create a lot of s. Don't forget that the tendency is for v to eventually disappear altogether. Because s cannot be created without v, bye-bye capitalism soon.

>>>> KE: The way to cut back on alienation is to scale back on mindless,
>>>> thoughtless surplus value production
, at least enough to ensure full
>>>> participation in the economy
.
>
> DRS: There is
no surplus value.

   Modern civilization could not have arisen without surpluses. Neither could private property, the state or the nuclear family. Without surpluses, Michelangelo would have had to spend most of the day in the fields, and all night painting the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.

> There is growing output, raising the real incomes of all
> major sections of the population. There is also a growing
> tendency for workers to become also capitalists, in other
> words for the typical worker to invest in the stock exchange,
> and receive an ever-increasing share of his income from
> his savings rather than from selling his labor.

   Can't argue with that.

>> KE: Re: free access communism: One mistake made by Marx and everyone else
>> is to regard
socialism or communism as happily compatible with the era of
>> labor
, but that is an oft-repeated big mistake. The purpose of the capitalist
>> system is to
abolish labor. Labor cannot be abolished without abolishing
>> surplus labor
, and surplus labor cannot exist without necessary labor as its
>> foundation. Capitalism will continue on until the
abolition of labor, so the
>> system of autonomous machine production that follows capitalism will not be
>> based upon either
labor or capital. Socialism and labor prove to be logically
>> antithetical. Do you get my point? If not, then where does my reasoning
>> break down?
>
> DRS: More could easily be said, but this is hardly a pressing matter. It
> will take
well over a century to bring people in India, Africa, and China
> up to the present income levels of the US and Europe.

   If the limitations of the 'intuitive linear perspective' are ignored, then future change can mistakenly be regarded as happening at the same old rate. But, would anyone claim that the year 2000 technological rate of change was the same as the year 1000? That would not compute, because the technological differences between year 900 and 1000 were pretty minimal by our standards, whereas the technological differences between 1900 and 2000 were quite phenomenal in comparison, demonstrating an acceleration of the rate of change, which Kurzweil detected as 'double exponential'. Since Kurzweil sees so much change happening by 2029 that no reasonable predictions can be made for society beyond that year, then for anyone to say that it will take past 2100 to bring the presently underdeveloped world up to speed is to give 'acceleration of progress' too short a shrift. Even Marx noticed acceleration of progress.

>>> McD: Do you agree that we could all go self employed & thus end
>>> capitalism as Marx had it?
>>
>> KE: No, because
mass self-employment would be here today if it were a more
>> efficient means of production.
Mass self-employment would not work well at
>> all for the production of commodities like pencils and light bulbs.
>
> DRS: That's
not clear. Light bulbs are just the kind of thing where
> factories could become robotized
, at some future point where this is
> viable.
Human labor will tend to move into more personal and creative
> lines of work. You could see a gradual growth of self-employment, and
> work in small partnerships, until the point where permanently working
> for an employer became a very old-fashioned kind of thing to do.

   Production of necessities of life, being mostly simple commodities, without doubt will be more and more robotized. Creative work certainly lends itself to self employment. The question is: When necessity manufacture is totally automated, will pure creative work and the production of non-necessities perpetuate the rat race? We shall see, I guess. A future interim period of pure surplus value production, with necessities of life free of charge, is not inconceivable, based upon where the curve of 'surplus value vs. time' is heading, and where the curve of 'necessary labor vs. time' is heading.

>> KE: After all, workers race to the bottom, while bosses get
>> lifted to the top. Or, are Bill Gates' billions a mere illusion?
>
> DRS: You and I are a lot better off because of Gates. His billions
> were not won at anyone else's expense. They are payment for part
> of the benefit he conferred on society.

   Bill Gates shouldn't be begrudged his billions. What deserves begrudging is the common bourgeois platitude that 'the poor are poor because they want to be.' It conveniently forgets the fact that poverty is as much national policy as unemployment, as well as the lack of comprehensive health care in the USA. Billions and billions can be found for nanotechnology, the war on Aids, the war in Iraq, etc., but none for comprehensive health care, nor for prescription benefits for poor senior citizens. It's pure government policy, and lots of people tolerate it.

>>>> KE: Marx's theory of SURPLUS value is quite different from his theory
>>>> of the
value of a commodity, because surplus value is all about the
>>>> DIVISION of the product of
labor between worker and boss. Surplus
>>>> value
is all about 'who gets what', and not at all about
>>>> 'how is commodity value determined'.
>>>
>>> McD: Yes, but why should we think there is any
truth to it?
>>
>> KE: If it isn't
true, then I must be just as rich as Rupert Murdoch,
>> and I just don't know it, so I always watch my spending.
>
> DRS: The fact that
some people are not as rich as others
> doesn't show that there is any
exploitation.

   It's true that 'rich vs. poor' alone doesn't demonstrate exploitation, so perhaps you could explain how bosses and owners get richer than workers, if it isn't by means of exploitation.

>> KE: I never bought a new car, for instance. Maybe I should just go down
>> to the
BMW dealer and see how high my rubber check will bounce.
>
> DRS: You're saying you're
not rich. Neither am I. This doesn't mean
> we were ever
exploited.

   What about my old example of taking home $7.50 per hour, while producing surplus value at the rate of $15.00 per hour? Isn't that a classic example of exploitation?

>>>> KE: Going back to your pronouncement of 'false' for surplus value, I think
>>>> if you approach
surplus value as a rather VERY DIFFERENT theory from the
>>>>
law of value, you will find that it is very helpful, because bosses very
>>>> much DO appropriate most of the product of
labor.
>
> DRS: Anyone who saves and cares to invest his savings gets a small
> percentage return on those savings,
that's all.

   Monthly dividends from savings bank accounts is a bit removed from the automobiles that come pouring off assembly lines, and get sold to realize financial success. Would you say that Henry Ford's wealth came more from his bank accounts, or more from his ownership of car factories, and selling what his factories produced? Or, are savings bank accounts the only way to make money?

>>> McD: I don't see it & I have always seen things that should have led me
>>> to doubt it all along [but didn't!]. Working as a painter & decorator I saw
>>> that many workers were very passive. Lots of girls in banks just seemed
>>> to chat amongst themselves for most of the day. It was not easy to see that
>>> the capitalist got much to sell in his half of the day from many I saw. But
>>>
marginal analysis replaced all that in the 1870s & Marx saw it for himself.
>>> He had
backed the wrong horse though he backed the one way ahead in the
>>> 1830s.
"Vulgar" economics had won out.
>>
>> KE: Perhaps you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Just think
>> about an auto factory: Autos come off the assembly line every minute of every
>> day. What if the workers were to drive those autos home, instead of driving
>> them onto the special trailers that take them en masse to auto dealerships,
>> or onto car-carrying freighters for export to other countries, to be sold to
>> customers and converted into profits and wages? If workers just drove the
>> cars home, then they would get the full value of what they produced (and
>> more, if they didn't pay for the raw materials, the heat and electricity in
>> the plant, etc.) Division of the product of labor to workers and bosses would
>> then not exist, because then workers would get everything. But, we know
>> that doesn't happen, so division of the product of labor is very real.
>
> DRS: This is
muddled. The "bosses", i.e. the stockholders, don't drive
> those cars home either. This is
division of labor; we produce for other
> people, not merely for ourselves. The selling price of the car covers the
> wages of the workers, payment for all the capital inputs, and a return to
> the stockholders, who have put their savings at the disposal of the car
> company. As it happens, the total amount going to the stockholders is
> usually a pretty small fraction of the total amount going to the paid
> employees.

   Whatever made my example a 'muddle'? My hypothesis was simply a very different (and impossible) scenario from the usual one of 'cars being sold by the company to realize a profit which is distributed to the owners and shareholders, etc.' The upper 20% of the population get 80% of new wealth, while the lower 80% get 20%, while the United Electrical Union uses figures of 90 and 10 percent. I won't quibble over the difference in their figures, for they both testify as to how surplus value (not profit) has grown over time, especially when combined with the fact that 80% of Americans worked the land 200 years ago, while only 2% work the land today. Profits have not grown comparatively because of the reinvestment of most surpluses into new capital, both variable and constant.

>>>> KE: It's a perfectly legal and civil relationship, of course, but
>>>> it does explain a lot about society's '
race to the bottom'. People
>>>> have to do SOMETHING to resist the
race to the bottom, so what
>>>> do they do? What's YOUR solution?
>>>
>>> McD: I am not clear on what you see as the problem? Please do say more.
>
> DRS: If people are
racing to the bottom, why do they keep getting richer?

   You are right about that. Maybe it's a figurative term used by a minority of malcontents and rabble-rousers, hoping to whip gullibles into a revolutionary frenzy.

 

05-30-03

   McD1st wrote:

>> KE: Political interests (democracy, universal suffrage, freedoms of
>> speech and assembly
, etc.) may be the same, but economic interests
>> are opposite. Bosses want to maximize
surplus value by overworking
>> a few, while workers benefit most when work is shared equitably.
>
> McD: There is
no surplus value.
>
> When firms cut costs on wages we all gain as consumers.

   'All of us gain'? If some workers get a 10% wage cut, it would be difficult to argue that the unfortunates would be able to buy the same amount of goods as before, wouldn't it?

> At no time do we have an institutional clash of interests on the market
> between the workers & the capitalists as Marx claimed.
All in the firm
> have a common institutional interest.

   Many interests are common, but the labor market exists, and bosses benefit when high unemployment causes desperate workers to accept low wage offers. With low unemployment, wage offers rise to attract workers. An economic boomlet and labor shortage in Madison, WI, resulted in MacDonald's workers being paid far above the minimum wage. Areas where workers' and bosses' interests differ should not be ignored.

>>> DRS: Yes, the class struggle is a myth.
>>
>> KE: True enough for now, at least. A big American
labor party would be a
>> sign of
class struggle, but we don't have much of either in the USA.
>
> McD: Not in a
Marxist sense.

   True, and neither in any other kind of sense, as far as I can see. History evolved different from the way Marx expected. His alleged class struggle between worker and boss was expected to lead to a big-bang revolution, but the abolition of capital and labor isn't going to be any noisier than a whisper.

>> KE: ... making the economy more inclusive alleviates
>> social problems.
>
> McD: In what way is the economy not utterly
inclusive?
>
> What do you have in mind by
more inclusiveness?

   5% unemployment as national policy means a considerable degree of exclusion from the above-ground economy. Millions rely on government handouts, the gray economy, charity, family, or the underground economy. The economy could be made more inclusive by bringing more people under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, raising the overtime premium rate from 'time and a half' to 'double time', legislating a minimum of a month of paid vacation, legislating more paid holidays, legislating a shorter work week, and maybe other ways to keep labor from glutting the labor market.

>>> DRS: Many of our problems have individual solutions.
>>
>> KE: That's certainly true, but some problems call for social solutions,
>> such as unemployment. Unemployment is
national policy, which means
>> that some social problems have been imposed upon the population
>> from above, by the
state, acting on behalf of business.
>
> McD: Well, to cut welfare
would cut unemployment & that is the main
> maintaining support of unemployment. Is that what Ken wants?

   In the USA, welfare and unemployment compensation are entirely separate social programs. Laid off workers who use up their unemployment benefits are sometimes forced onto welfare, but then are no longer considered 'unemployed' in the official statistical sense.

>>> DRS: Cutting hours would hurt the workers who would get lower wages.
>>
>> KE: Why would
'the workers' get lower wages? Which workers? All workers?
>
> McD: There would be less output & the value of wages relates to output.

   That would be correct if all output goes into the wage fund. But, that hypothesis ignores output that goes into advertising, dividends, investment, profits, savings, taxes, etc. So, it has yet to be proven that cutting hours would translate into lower wages. Historically, just the opposite occurred: hours have already been cut by a third or more in the USA over the past century, but the lost time was more than compensated by rising productivity, resulting in a profusion of products and services like never before.

>>> DRS: They have chosen a certain combination of hours and wages.
>>> They don't want
lower hours and lower wages. If they wanted that,
>>> they would have chosen it.
>>
>> KE: This
Reuters article shows that American workers are putting in
>> fewer hours and work less overtime as a result of the current recession.

>> Are Americans voluntarily '
choosing' this reduced work load? See:
>>
>>
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=LAGHXN4WG1WJWCRBAEKSFFA?
>> type%5C=reutersEdge&storyID=2677262

>
> McD: No, they will not be choosing an outcome that the recession places
> on them but that is not to say that they do not choose the
hours when
> there is no
recession. In fact it suggests they do.

   If we choose our own hours (and it seems obvious that we DO, as a society), then we certainly choose longer hours than what's necessary. As productivity booms, and the time required to create necessities declines, then today we work far beyond what's necessary. 200 years ago, 80% of Americans worked the land, but only 2% do now. At the rates at which new buildings and dwellings are erected, and the ease with which clothing pours out of automated clothing factories, the necessities of life cost less in human effort than ever. But, workers do not buy fancy homes, cars, planes, jewels, and boats. The upper classes consume the fancy stuff.

>> KE: Without surplus value, there can be no profit. And yet, the news is full
>> of reports of corporate profits, and
taxes on profits. More mass delusion?
>
> McD: But
neither profits nor interest actually comes from the workers
> working on output that transcends the value of their wages but from
> entrepreneurship or the use of savings.

   While working at that shop with the $22.50 shop rate, my hourly wage was $7.50, and the boss simultaneously earned $15.00 per hour off my labor. That $15.00 certainly 'transcended the value of my wages', did it not?

>>> DRS: No, the worker gets the whole value of his contribution.
>>> The capitalist gets the whole value of her contribution.
>>
>> KE: What about the earlier example of my own experience as an auto mechanic?
>> The shop rate was $22.50, my wage was $7.50, and the
surplus value was
>> $15.00. If I supposedly
got the whole value of my contribution, then my wage
>> would have been the rate the boss charged the customer - $22.50. But, I never
>> got that much. Or, did I forget, and should I go back and check my pay stubs?
>
> McD: Here Ken
seems to be saying that no one else aided the production
> of this service to the buyer, to be denying that others in the firm
> contribute
...

   Never would I say that, because my boss worked on cars almost as much as I did. He supported himself through his own labor, plus my labor supported him as well. If I didn't support him, then he would have had little incentive to hire me, and he and I would have been independent mechanics in business for ourselves. It was the enticement of the profits he could make off MY labor that convinced him to hire me, not the mere pleasure of my company. The facilities he offered enticed me to seek employment with him. It was a win-win situation, but he won more.

> ... just as Marx did but above Ken denied that Marx did any
> such thing with the implied suggestion that
nor would he do so.

   Marx was already quoted to the effect that 'the industrial capitalist contributes, while the landlord does not.'

>>> DRS: Given the fact that capitalism increases real incomes for the
>>> whole population
, why is this a race to the bottom?
>>
>> I didn't invent the '
race to the bottom' phrase. See:
>>
http://www.nlcnet.org/brochure/page1.htm
>
> McD: No, but that does not affect its
truth, falsehood.
>
>
Progress tends to make us all better off as Ken openly admits above
> when he says that
yesterday's luxuries are now household goods.
>
> But perhaps he meant we had no choice in having to have them so
> we are somehow no better off.

   That old NLC web page doesn't exist anymore, so try:

   http://www.aworldconnected.org/article.php/208.html

   "Tonelson explains how a competition has emerged in which countries with the weakest workplace safety laws, the lowest taxes, and the toughest unionization laws win investment from American and European countries. Tonelson argues that this 'race to the bottom' of labor standards has been the driving force behind the decline of American living standards for the past quarter century, and, as we have already begun to see, will cause even bigger problems for the worldwide economy as it continues."

   This erosion of labor standards is 'the race to the bottom'. Books have been written about it. Are things not happening the way Tonelson suggests?

>> KE: You would have to argue with the New York Times over their claim
>> that '
wages are going down for the whole spectrum of workers.'
>> I didn't write the story.
>
> Over 300 years it seems to be overall on the way up for wages
> rather than down. Would the article refute that?

   No, conditions certainly get better with time. No one wants to go back to the bad old days and give up their broadband connections in favor of glacial dial-up speeds. The 50-fold increase in speed justifies paying twice the old price.

 

05-30-03

   McD1st wrote:

> MCD: By the bye, Ken, I generally put all I write onto the LA list so
> you do get indirectly onto our
list. That is where DRS replies. You are
> very welcome to join directly. There is no 3 post a day rule.

   Thanks for the invitation. I'm pretty happy with the way things are going along as they are. Being strapped for time, I couldn't possibly join another forum at the moment, though the invitation is very much appreciated.

> I think the main excuse they threw me off the SPGB list was that I sent on
> all I did to the
LA list but the SPGBers are relative deadheads so it was not
> worthwhile if I could not put my posts also where they could get criticised
> effectively.

   I no longer worry much about participating there. Chatter about religion is no better than counting the angels on the head of a pin. If existing governments allow freedom of religion, then that freedom is a done deal. No one will vote for a party intent on repressing religion once it gets into power.

   I just got kicked off a Green list - Green Alliance USA - a couple of days ago, and no appeals were effective in reinstating me. That makes about the fifth time I've been expelled from one forum or another, and for what? I always try to get to the heart of the issue of the day. I wrote to one respected Green correspondent:

>> "Revolutionaries offer less freedom of speech than the very
>> governments they are pledged to overthrow, which can't help
>> but discredit them."
>
> Great quote!

   I'll have another reply in the mail soon.



End of May 2003 Correspondence

 

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